Sconnie Sports Talk

Wisconsin must overcome the Izzone to win on Thursday


After seven straight Big Ten victories, the Wisconsin Badgers are headed to East Lansing, MI this Thursday to take on a vengeful Michigan State Spartans team, looking to be both the beginning and the end of the Badgers month-long win streak.

The Badgers’ catapult to success has been highlighted on the court by preseason All-American Nigel Hayes’s increased aggressiveness leading to 20.4 points per game during the streak. In addition, the uplifting play of Vitto Brown, who has beaten his career-high points totals for two games in a row, has been key. Lastly, as detailed on Monday, the change in the locker room and the team’s cohesion has truly sparked the team’s success, according to interim head coach Greg Gard.

While the Badgers are arguably the hottest team in the country right now, moving up to a #9 seed in ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s most recent bracket, they are going to have to overcome much more than just Denzel Valentine. They are also going to have to play against the Breslin Center, against the ruthless Michigan State student section, otherwise known as “the Izzone”, who will certainly be doing all they can to help move the Spartans back up in the Big Ten standings.

Widely regarded as one of the toughest places in college basketball to play, the Breslin Center fits 15,000 people including the 4,000 screaming Michigan State students. Their passion has not gone unnoticed, as the Spartans have made it to the NCAA tournament for 18 years in a row and own an astounding 69-12 record in home games over the last five years. This is not only a testament to the coaching of Tom Izzo, but also to the impact of the Michigan State faithful.

Perhaps the most remarkable statistic about the difficulty of winning at the Breslin Center is the opposing team’s field goal percentage. When the Spartans play in front of their home crowd, they hold teams to a meager 34.96% from the field. On the road, however, the opposing teams’ field goal percentage jumps up to 39.64%. While this 4.68% differential may not seem to hold a lot of weight, in close games, it can make all the difference.

Using the Badgers’ road game against an equally talented Maryland team this past Saturday as the basis for this calculation, we can tell that this small margin equates to roughly 2.6 field goals that the Badgers would have missed. Because of the Badgers’ 12 three-pointers last week and 11 2-pointers, this ultimately adds up to 6.556 points that the Badgers statistically would lose. And for a team like Wisconsin who has had 14 games decided by 8 points or less, this home court advantage plays tremendously into the Spartans hands.

The Badgers will most certainly have their work cut out for them on Thursday, but that does not mean that they are not ready to handle it. They snapped #6 Maryland’s home winning streak last Saturday, and I think they have what it takes to beat #8 Michigan State for the second time this season.

But, that will mean overcoming the Izzone at the Breslin Center, where the Badgers have not won since March 2, 2004, spanning eight games. Michigan State has won each game by an average of 10.1 points.

The Badgers tip off at 8:00 PM CT on Thursday on ESPN.


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