The Badgers welcome the Michigan State Spartans to the Kohl Center on Tuesday in what will likely be another classic battle between two teams that know each other well. This has been one of the most intense rivalries over the last few years, so let’s take a look at what makes the matchup so great.
You can argue that the MSU-Wisconsin rivalry began in the 1999-2000 season when the Spartans knocked off the Badgers three times en route to a national championship, but a rivalry needs to be born out of competition, not domination.
For me, the rivalry was born on January 12th, 2002. On that cold Saturday in January, the #25 ranked Badgers entered the Breslin Center with hopes of snapping the Spartans’53-game home court winning streak. Tied at 62, Freddie Owens hit a jumper to give the Badgers a two-point lead with 25 seconds to play. After a foul, freshman Alan Anderson made his first free throw to bring the Spartans within one. Anderson missed the second free throw, but Michigan State was able to grab the offensive rebound. Michigan State was given another chance to extend the streak after a Marcus Taylor missed layup bounced out of bounds off the Badgers with 0.2 seconds left.
Now, there’s not much a team can do with the ball with 0.2 left, especially after the NCAA adopted what is formally known as the “Trent Tucker” rule, which doesn’t allow a player to possess and shoot the ball with less than 0.3 seconds remaining. Because there was 0.2 on the clock, not 0.3, MSU would need to tip the ball in as opposed to catching and shooting.
MSU fans were left wishing Keith Torbert knew that rule, as Torbert slammed home an alley-oop pass as time expired. Spartan fans stormed the court believing that they had extended their home court winning streak, but the referees went to the monitor for review. After confirming that Torbert possessed the ball during the dunking motion, the refs disallowed the shot, even though replays showed that he had gotten the shot off in time. The win also knocked the Spartans out of the Top 25 for the first time in 71 weeks.
“I’ll f***ing remember that”
One year later the Spartans traveled to Madison with revenge on their minds. The game was tied at 48 with less than six minutes remaining, but Bucky closed on a 16-5 run which resulted in a 64-53 Badger victory. Everything seemed tame until Devin Harris and Alando Tucker decided to put an exclamation point on the win in the closing seconds, as Tucker slammed home an alley-oop that put the icing on the cake. A livid Tom Izzo went berserk at his press conference, telling Bo Ryan and the Badgers “I’ll f***ing remember that”. Alas, I could not find Izzo’s tantrum on Youtube.
How Sweep it is
The Badgers swept the Spartans in the 2003-04 season, coasting to a victory at home before winning nail biters in East Lansing and in the Big Ten Tourney. The Badgers won by four in the Breslin Center before escaping with a two-point win in the Conference Tournament. Izzo complained during his press conference following the game in Madison, saying the refs were favoring the Badgers. MSU committed 27 fouls to Bucky’s 13.
The Streak Continues
In the 2004-05 season, the Badgers hosted Michigan State with their own streak on the line. Bucky had won 38 straight home games, which was the longest streak in the nation. Their streak looked like it would fall though, as Sparty held a 59-51 lead with less than two minutes to play. The Badgers stormed back with a crucial three pointer from Sharif Chambliss and some clutch free throw shooting to score the game’s final 11 points. A Shannon Brown three-pointer rimmed out as the Badgers stunned the Spartans 62-59. Bo Ryan pushed his mark to 6-0 against the Spartans, but MSU would get revenge later in East Lansing to put a blemish on Ryan’s record. The two would also split their meetings in 2005-06.
#1 Goes Down
As documented before, the 2006-07 season was one of the best in Wisconsin history, and when they traveled to East Lansing for a date with Michigan State the Badgers were the #1 ranked team in the nation. Drew Neitzel shot the lights out, hitting six three-pointers while finishing with a game-high 28 points. Michigan State went on to win 64-55, and the Spartan faithful legitimately stormed the court to celebrate.
Kam Answers on Senior Day
Later that season, Drew Neitzel tried to spoil Senior Day in Madison, but Alando Tucker and Kam Taylor wouldn’t let it happen. Neitzel scored 22 points, but Alando Tucker posted a game-high 26 to keep the game close down the stretch. Kam Taylor struggled to find his shot, going 1-for-8 to start the game, but it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. The senior drained a three-pointer with 4.0 seconds left to put the Badgers on top 52-50. The Badger seniors went out on top when Neitzel’s three pointer fell short as time expired.
The Badgers faced the Spartans for the third time in three weeks in the Conference Tourney, and won 70-57 behind 21 points from Alando Tucker.
Brian Butch, maybe the greatest McDonald’s All-American player ever to grace the Kohl Center with his presence (ha), pours in four three-pointers in the only matchup with Sparty during the 2007-08 regular season. The Badgers won the conference title outright, then set their sights on the Conference Tournament title. Wisconsin and Michigan State met up in the semifinals, and the Spartans held a 12-point lead with only minutes to play. The Badgers rallied back to tie the game at 63, despite 26 points from senior Drew Neitzel. MSU tried to get their senior the ball in the final seconds, but Michael Flowers, a member of the Big Ten’s all-defensive team, stepped in front of a Kalin Lucas pass and drove the court for a layup to give the Badgers a 65-63 lead, which ended up being the difference. Tim Izzo cried after the game when asked about Neitzel’s performance. Per ESPN:
“For [Neitzel] to play the way he did the last two days, I’ve always said good things happen to people who work hard and stick to it,” Izzo said, choking up. “I think he deserved what he got as far as his play. I don’t think he deserved what he got as far as the game went.”
Wisconsin went on to win the Big Ten Conference Tourney the next day.
The Tables Turn
If you’re a Wisconsin fan, you might want to stop reading here.
Beginning in the 2008-09 season, Michigan State continued to find ways to beat the Badgers. In their only meeting that season, the Badgers were overwhelmed by a late 32-9 rally to fall 61-50. The Badgers experienced much of the same the following season, as they fell to the Spartans in the Breslin Center 54-47.
Bo and the Badgers got a little revenge later in the season when Michigan State traveled to Madison. The Badgers got out to an early lead and never looked back en route to a 67-48 win. With the win, Bo Ryan moved to 10-0 against the Spartans in games not played in East Lansing.
The Badgers easily could have swept the Spartans in the 2010-11 season, but a late rally by MSU in East Lansing allowed the Spartans to sneak by the Badgers 64-61 in overtime. Sparty scored the final nine points of regulation to push the game to the extra period.
As had been the trend, Bo got his revenge when the Spartans visited the Kohl Center later in the season. Jordan Taylor had one of his best games, posting a career-high 30 points in a 82-56 thrashing of the Spartans.
The Bank Closes Early
Last season, the #18 ranked Badgers hosted the #10 ranked Spartans at the Kohl Center. In a back and forth game, the score was tied 50-50 with only seconds left. Senior Jordan Taylor missed a free throw with 31 seconds left, but the Badgers found new life when Keith Appling’s last second shot went begging. Michigan State held a three point lead in overtime when Ryan Evans found the ball in his hands as the seconds ticked away. Then this happened:
The loss marked the first time the Badgers lost to Michigan State at the Kohl Center in the Bo Ryan era.
The Spartans went on to complete the season sweep, posting a 14-point win at the Breslin Center and a 13-point win during the Big Ten Tourney.
Over the last 11 seasons, the Badgers are 13-9 against the Spartans, but Michigan State has won six of the last eight meetings. During that stretch, the teams have combined for seven conference championships, five Big Ten Tournament appearances and three Big Ten Tournament titles. There’s been comebacks, buzzer-beaters, and game winners that weren’t. The next chapter in the storied rivalry will be written soon, and with first place in the Big Ten on the line, don’t be surprised if things get heated soon after tip-off.