The 2015 B1G Men’s Basketball Tournament final featured two teams with different storylines going into Sunday’s championship game. For the top seeded Wisconsin Badgers, it was about trying to solidify a #1-seed in the NCAA Tournament when the brackets were unveiled. For the Michigan State Spartans, they had a lot less to lose. They were already in the tournament, and their seeding was already predetermined by many. A win over the regular season B1G champion Badgers would only sweeten the deal going into next week’s start of the NCAA Tournament.
Michigan State did not fare well in their lone game against the Badgers on the road in the season. The score shows they only lost by 7 points, but the Spartans were down by double-digits much of the second half, sometimes by as much as 20 points. Sunday’s game was a whole lot different and lot closer and contested. Through the first twenty minutes, MSU found themselves up one. Spartans head coach Tom Izzo was feeling confident in his group that they had a fighting chance against coaching counterpart Bo Ryan. With 7 minutes to go in the game, Michigan State was up by 11 and had the Badgers on their heels. The tables quickly turned however.
Wisconsin tied the game with a little over three minutes to go at 62. From there, a couple more buckets were made on each side and the B1G Basketball Tournament went to overtime for the first time in its history, with the game tied at 69. Unfortunately for Michigan State, it was all Badgers in the extra frame.
Wisconsin outscored the Spartans 11-0 in the overtime session, to win by a final of 80-69. The player of the game for the Badgers was forward Nigel Hayes, who had a game-high 25 points and was perfect from the free-throw line, going 12 for 12. Sophomore guard Bronson Koenig was the other star for the Badgers, scoring 18 points and shooting 5 for 10 from the field, including 4 of 8 from three-point range. Player of the year candidate Frank Kaminsky had another stellar performance, putting up 19 points. The Badgers swept the Big Ten championships this year, winning both the regular season and conference tournament titles.
The always resilient and tough Michigan State Spartans gave it their all. Simply put, they ran out of gas late in the game and could not pull away from the better Wisconsin team. A costly and questionable call did not go in the favor of MSU late in the game. With roughly 15 seconds to go, there was a loose ball where a Badger went to save it for his team and frantically tossed it up for grabs. MSU got the rebound and went for an outlet pass to clear it out, but threw it away to a Badger, allowing Wisconsin to draw a foul and tie the game up. The questionable part? The Wisconsin player who saved it from out of bounds, actually stepped out of bounds. The play was never reviewed. the CBS analysts who called the game first caught it and brought it to the attention of viewers.
The seniors for Michigan State once again stepped up on the biggest of stages. Forward Branden Dawson and guard Travis Trice each had 16 points. Junior guard Bryn Forbes was a pleasant surprise for the Spartans as well, adding 10 points in the contest.
Both teams will have plenty of momentum going into the tournament next week after playing really strong down the stretch and making it to the conference championship game.
It is that time of the year once again, college basketball fans! The time where you take a personal day from work to watch all the tournament games, the days where you stress over trying to make that perfect bracket, and the dog days where you dispose of your brackets, either via paper shredder, via flames, or simply crumbling it up and tossing it in the trash. But yes, for the next three weeks, the conversation starter and question of the month will be “How’s your bracket?”
For the B1G Championship contestants, they now know where they will be playing. The Wisconsin Badgers have earned themselves a #1-seed in the West Region. Their first game will be against the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. As for MSU, they are seeded #7 in the East region, and will play the #10-seed Georgia Bulldogs.
For a complete look at the 2015 NCAA Tournament bracket, click here.