Big Ten Geeks: Spartans Outlast Badgers

Michigan State won a battle of attrition in frigid Madison, edging Wisconsin by a 49-47 score. The Spartans are now 5-0 in games decided by three points or less, and this win was especially fortunate. The Badgers did an excellent job on defense, forcing Michigan State to take an abnormally high proportion of two-point jumpers:

MICHIGAN STATE FGM FGA FG% % of shots
Layups/dunks/tip-ins 6 13 46% 28%
Two-point jumpers 8 25 32% 53%
Threes 4 9 44% 19%

For the season, the Spartans dedicate only 33 percent of their shots to two-point jumpers, as they are usually able to get ample opportunities at the rim. Wisconsin shut that down, thanks in no small part to the shot-altering prowess of Jared Berggren. Michigan State, normally a mediocre team from distance, made four of nine threes to boost its otherwise chilly night. All things considered, Wisconsin defended plenty well to get the win.

On the other end, however, the Badgers had their own shooting problems against a stout Spartans defense:

WISCONSIN FGM FGA FG% % of shots
Layups/dunks/tip-ins 5 9 56% 17%
Two-point jumpers 3 18 17% 33%
Threes 8 27 30% 50%

Still, even with all the missed threes (8-of-27), Wisconsin should have won this game. It was Michigan State’s free-throw defense that ultimately prevailed, as the Badgers shot just 7-of-18 from the stripe (39 percent). If Bo Ryan’s team shoots just a little over 50 percent on free throws, the Spartans lose. That is dumb luck.

None of this is to say that Tom Izzo doesn’t have a good team on his hands–he clearly does. It’s just that the Spartans probably aren’t as good as their 6-1 conference mark. A big opportunity to prove me wrong comes this Sunday as Michigan State visits Indiana–a win in Bloomington removes any doubt that the Spartans are truly a Big Ten title contender.

Illinois seemingly got back on track with a 20-point win at Nebraska, though it’s not clear that this was a true return to form for the Illini. D.J. Richardson had a career night, scoring 30 points on just 14 shots, while the rest of the team went one for 13 from three (the make came from deep reserve Mike Shaw during mop-up time). Illinois did show improved ball movement for stretches of this game, and the rebounding effort was encouraging, but it’s hard to know if any of this will carry over to a legit opponent. Sunday’s hosting of Michigan will provide a quick answer, as the Illini enter a brutal five-game stretch in which they must go at least 1-4 to keep any tournament hopes alive.

Ohio State jumped out to a big lead over Iowa and held off a late surge to secure the home win. The Buckeyes have now held four straight Big Ten opponents under a point per trip, and the battle for the conference’s best defense is convalescing around Ohio State and Wisconsin. Aaron Craft was a catalyst, collecting four steals, though it was the Buckeyes’ field goal defense that really made the difference. The Hawkeyes shot just 36 percent on twos and were unable to take advantage of a surprising number of offensive rebounds. It also didn’t help that they bricked free throws (13 of 26), though a more typical percentage at the line probably still wouldn’t have been enough to change the result.

Tonight, it’s another Wednesday doubleheader on BTN, starting with the 6pm CT tip of Penn State at Indiana. This is the most lopsided on-paper matchup of the conference season, so consider it a moral victory if the Nittany Lions are able to stay within 20. At 8pm CT, Minnesota visits Northwestern. Watch the Gophers work the offensive glass in this one–things could get out of hand quickly if the Wildcats can’t end possessions.

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12 Comments

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Show Comments (12 Comments)
Garrett Karp on 1/23/2013 @ 12:39pm EST Said:

That’s the beauty of college basketball. There is no question IU and UM are the most talented teams in the conference. But there’s a reason why the preseason polls mean nothing. There’s a reason why we play the games. it isn’t the most talented team that hangs a banner at the end of the year. It’s the team that finds the way to win the most games in the end. And Izzo’s team usually manages to.

Doug on 1/23/2013 @ 1:02pm EST Said:

It’s just so hard for you guys to give MSU credit, isn’t it? If Wisconsin didn’t throw up so many bricks to get all those offensive rebounds, whereas if they miss those shots better than they did, MSU wins by double digits. So if MSU loses at IU, the hardest place to play in the big ten, that means they aren’t contenders? Come on guys. You could also say if MSU hit their free throws at Minny, MSU would be 7-0 right now….

Ed meny on 1/23/2013 @ 4:42pm EST Said:

Neither team shot well. Missing a jumper and missing a free throw are misses. I feel pointing out that, had Wisconsin made more of their free throws they would have won, while true, is meaningless because they didn’t. MSU played well enough to win a tough Big Ten away game. Wisconsin did not play well enough to win at home. In the Big 10 that is a more important and meaningful stat.

Ben24 on 1/23/2013 @ 5:19pm EST Said:

Well said Doug. I completely agree.

Sylvangreen on 1/23/2013 @ 5:33pm EST Said:

The team that won is the team that should have won. While Wiscy is a poor free throw shooting team, they are hands down the best at flopping. Bruesewitz should get an Oscar for falling down late in the game when Russell Byrd tried to dribble around him.

UUSMCSpartan(Ret.) on 1/23/2013 @ 6:35pm EST Said:

I luv it when people who were never in the arena claim to know what they are talking about, usually with stats. Doug, you just keep the drivel coming until March when the B1G Tourney is done and over. Like most at btn, knowing nothing about how a game is played isn’t a disadvantage.

Doug on 1/23/2013 @ 7:07pm EST Said:

Hey Marine, this is Doug, also known as MSU Owns Denard on green and white, are you the same Marine that posts there?

Doug on 1/23/2013 @ 7:10pm EST Said:

And Marine, while you say I posted drivel, I thought I made some good points, not sure what I said that ruffled your feathers so much, thank you Ben and Ed and Salvangreen for agreeing with my post.

USMCSpartan(Ret.) on 1/23/2013 @ 8:10pm EST Said:

It’s an old man’s problem with fixation: I looked up to see Mike Portscheller name and by the time I got back to the post I saw Doug and the rest is blogging history, my apologies (which is not a sign of weakness as Gibbs insists, when yo make a mistake own up to it)

Doug on 1/23/2013 @ 8:31pm EST Said:

It’s cool Marine, we’re always on the same page on green and white, that’s why I thought it odd why you said I was posting drivel, it’s all good !

Doug on 1/23/2013 @ 8:33pm EST Said:

I take it you meant to say Mike was posting drivel not me!

Mark Johnson on 1/24/2013 @ 9:40am EST Said:

Huh. MSU holds the 24th best offense in the country (by Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric) to less than .9 points per possession, and they’re not in the discussion for the conference’s best defense? They’re 17th, Wisconsin is 15th – that’s a virtual tie. I’d still give the honor to OSU, but if Wisconsin is in the conversation, MSU should be too, especially after besting Wisconsin’s excellent defensive performance in Madison.