Featured Video from Scott Steehn
No. 1 Michigan State faces No. 4 Wisconsin in a chalky Big 10 semifinal on Saturday afternoon from the United Center in Chicago. The Spartans controlled No. 8 Ohio State, 77-70 on Friday for their third straight win. Wisconsin had a little more trouble with feisty No. 13 Nebraska, winning 66-62. These teams met just once this season with the Spartans winning, 67-59 on the road on Feb. 12.
Badgers win despite Happ
Khalil Iverson and Nate Reuvers scored 14 points apiece to lead the Wisconsin Badgers over Nebraska by four on Friday. That was the Badgers’ sixth win in the last seven games. They won despite Ethan Happ’s worst performance of the season. Happ scored just four points, grabbed seven rebounds and had four assists on 2-of-4 shooting. For the second game in a row, Nebraska’s defense stopped one of the best big men in the conference. On Thursday, they held Maryland center Bruno Fernando to just three points on 1-of-4 shooting. But unlike Maryland, Wisconsin had others to step up. They shot 48 percent from the field and outrebounded the Cornhuskers by nine.
— Wisconsin On BTN (@WisconsinOnBTN) March 15, 2019
Give Nebraska a lot of credit as they played just six players in the third game in three days. Wisconsin was playing their first game of the tournament and while it wasn’t pretty, they survived and advanced. The Badgers are having a great season with a 15-6 conference mark. Jerry Palm has them as the No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. A better performance here and they could move to a three.
Happ leads in points per game (17.8ppg), assists (4.7apg) and rebounds (10.4rpg). Wisconsin averages 69.6 points per game on 45.6 percent shooting (37.4% 3pt). So they are an efficient team that plays at a slow pace. On defense, they are allowing just 61.2 points per game (9th) on 39.2 percent shooting (10th) and 30.9 percent three-point shooting (28th).
Nick Ward returned to play 14 minutes, scoring eight points in Michigan State’s 77-70 win over Ohio State on Friday. Ward (hand) had not played since a Feb. 17 18-point win over the Buckeyes. The Spartans led this one throughout but they had to scuffle at the end despite the Buckeyes turning it over 15 times. Ohio State made it interesting because they made 12-of-26 three-pointers, while MSU made just 7 of 17. Cassius Winston led the Spartans with 18 points, five assists, seven rebounds, and four turnovers. Foster Loyer added 14 points off the bench for Sparty, who shot 52 percent from the field and 18-of-21 from the line.
This is one outstanding Michigan State team despite being shorthanded as star wing Joshua Langford (ankle) has been out for the season since late January. Winston has been one of the premier point guards in the nation, averaging 18.9 points per game and 7.6 assists. The Spartans rank 36th in the nation in scoring (79.6ppg) on 49 percent shooting (13th), 74.9 percent free throw shooting (36th) and 38.2 percent three-point shooting (25th). On defense, they allow 66 points per game (46th) on 37.8 percent shooting (4th) and 32.3 percent three-point shooting (71st). Jerry Palm has them as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Michigan State is:
- 2-7 ATS last 9 neutral site games.
- Underdog is 4-1 ATS last 5 in series.
- 7-3-1 ATS last 11 after a SU win.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Happ had 20 points in that first meeting so there’s no way he’s scoring four this time. The one thing that bothers me about Michigan State aside from the injuries to Langford and Ward not playing at 100% yet, is their inability to guard the three-point shot. That probably also concerns Tom Izzo because Wisconsin can control the tempo, get the ball to Happ in the post and he’ll move the ball to the perimeter, where the Badgers have a bunch of good three-point shooters.
Full-Game Total Pick
Wisconsin scored just 59 points in that first meeting but they usually score in the 60s. They also hold teams to the 60s or below. Part of that is tempo but they really just play sound defense. The Spartans also play solid defense and are one of the most physical teams in the nation. Wisconsin is 11-5 Under their last 16 overall and MSU is 23-9-1 Under their last 33 after a SU win.