For Wisconsin, this will be the first time they will miss the NCAA tournament since 1998. Greg Gard’s first full season in Madison was a great success, winning 27 games and making a Sweet Sixteen. This season, however, was much tougher for the Badgers; Gard’s squad went 15-17 (7-11 in the Big Ten) without their star-player from the last two seasons, Nigel Hayes. Today, and for much of the season, redshirt junior Ethan Happ led the way with 22 points. Besides Happ, there wasn’t much help from the rest of the young Wisconsin team. In fact, this is one of the youngest Wisconsin teams in recent history. Coach Gard, despite a disappointing season, was extremely satisfied with the growth of his young players and their bright future ahead, “ I told them even before today, I don't know if there's a more improved team -- there's not a more improved team in the league. I don't know across the country if there's a team that's come as far as this group has with what they've had to overcome and work through an how they've grown.”
On the other side, Tom Izzo has his Michigan State Spartans rolling. The Spartans still haven’t lost since January 13th. They are the #2 team in the country and they are looking to complement their Big Ten regular season Championship with a Big Ten Tournament Title, which would be Izzo’s 6th title in 18 seasons as the Spartan coach. The lethal guard-forward duo of Miles Bridges and Cassius Winston started slow, but then led the way down the stretch for Michigan State with 20 and 17 points respectively. When asked about the game, Bridges said, “We're definitely excited we get to play here for a championship at the mecca of basketball. We had to get some first-game jitters out of the way. But I feel like once we got that out of the way we got comfortable and we got going.” Now that the jitters are out of the way for Bridges and Co., this Michigan State team is a serious contender for a Final Four appearance. With their incredible size and their shooting ability from the outside (.421 for second best in the Big Ten Conference), this team is practically unstoppable when firing on all cylinders. They play the Michigan Wolverines in the semi-final on Saturday. This will only be the second meeting of the season between these two in-state rivals. Michigan won the first meeting in East Lansing by 10 points, arguably Michigan’s best win of the season.