Saturday's Big Ten Tournament TV schedule
|GAME||TIME (CT)||NETWORK||ODDS (per Bovada)|
|Ohio State vs. Michigan||12:40 p.m.||CBS||Michigan -2 1/2-105|
|Michigan State vs. Wisconsin||3:05 p.m.||CBS||Michigan State -2-110|
The full Saturday TV schedule with games from all conferences can be found here.
After taking down Minnesota with ease, Wisconsin gets Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. The Badgers defeated the Spartans in their only matchup of the season, a 60-58 win in Madison on Feb. 9. Traevon Jackson buried a jumper from the left elbow with 2.1 seconds to play that helped Wisconsin continue to right the ship following that January swoon.
Michigan State, meanwhile, enters the semifinals after taking down Northwestern on Friday. The Spartans started slow, but ultimately pulled out a 67-51 win behind 16 points from Branden Dawson and 13 from Gary Harris.
So the winner of Saturday's game draws the winner of Ohio State and Michigan, the early game on the semifinals slate. Back in February, Wisconsin was able to build a lead vs. Michigan State, but could never really pull away late. Three different times in the second half, the Badgers led by at least seven points. Yet each time, the Spartans closed to within a possession of the lead. MSU's Adreian Payne spurred the late resurgence, tying the game on a three-pointer with 8.7 seconds remaining. The 6'10 big man finished with 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting, and the Badgers' ability to limit him on Saturday will be huge in seeing if they're able to advance to the finals.
Wisconsin would also obviously do well to carry forward as much as possible from Friday's win, especially the performance of Sam Dekker, who had been held without a double-figure scoring effort for three straight games before emerging early vs. Minnesota. Dekker finished with 10 points, but his presence was cruical early on. From Parker's recap:
Dekker did not have the flashiest numbers -- 10 points (5-of-9 field goals), four rebounds, two blocks and an assist -- but the difference in his aggressiveness was palpable from the opening minutes. On the Sheboygan, Wis., native's first four chances, he beat his defender baseline for a layup, used one dribble to create space and hit a pull-up jumper, and found senior guard Ben Brust for two open three-point attempts by driving, drawing a second defender, and kicking out. The early energy helped the Badgers build a 21-9 lead and take an early control that they never relinquished.
Elsewhere, Ben Brust was the headline with a career-high 29 points. Across the board, the Badgers shot well, going 30-of-55 from the field (54.5 percent) and 10-of-24 from three-point range (41.7 percent). It was fun seeing two of UW's four double-digit scorers come from the bench, too. Nigel Hayes shot 6-of-9 from the field to finish with 15 points -- 13 in the second half -- and six rebounds. Bronson Koenig scored 14 points on 5-of-5 shooting, including 4-of-4 from outside. Each played 23 minutes, three more than Josh Gasser and one less than Traevon Jackson, fostering the sense of balance that many fans have been clamoring for.
Sure, Michigan State is a better team than Minnesota and regression from Friday's performance probably has to be expected. But whether's a well-rounded, skilled bench effort, a terrific performance from outside or a hot start, Wisconsin has several identifiable elements to bring into Saturday and beyond. Back in February, the Badgers turned the ball over on 20 percent of their possessions vs. the Spartans, and even if Bad Trae shows up, I wouldn't expect that sort of carelessness with the ball again.
Wisconsin also seemed particularly aggressive vs. Minnesota, getting to the line 21 times (hitting just 13, though), and keeping the Gophers from keying on any single part of the offense. That sort of effort should also quell any sort of cold spell, giving the Badgers yet another element to replicate vs. the Spartans.