College Basketball: Wisconsin at Michigan State - Wisconsin Favored
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Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan couldn't help celebrating the Badgers' first-ever No. 1 ranking, but his focus quickly shifted to making sure they keep it.
The Badgers take the floor as the nation's top team for the first time Tuesday when they visit Michigan State.
Wisconsin (26-2, 12-1 Big Ten) moved up two spots in Monday's poll after previously top-ranked Florida lost 83-70 at Vanderbilt on Saturday. The Badgers received 35 first-place votes and 1,747 points to jump over No. 2 Ohio State, which had 31 first-place votes and 1,728 points.
Ryan's team started the season No. 9 and dropped to 12th following a defeat to Missouri State on Nov. 24, but has since won 22 of 23 to claim the top spot.
"I ran around with the foam finger, blowing the horn and throwing the confetti for about a minute," Ryan said with a laugh. "Then I went back into my office and watched the DVD of a very good Iowa team losing by 30 to Michigan State."
The Badgers face the Spartans (19-8, 6-6) twice in their final three regular-season games around a crucial matchup at Ohio State on Sunday. Wisconsin - which defeated the Buckeyes 72-69 on Jan. 9 - is tied with Ohio State for the Big Ten lead.
This is the first time since Nov. 30, 1992, that the Big Ten holds the No. 1 and 2 spots.
"Our destiny is on our own hands. I thrive off that. This will tell the tale of this Wisconsin team this year," Badgers leading scorer Alando Tucker said. "Everything we do from here adds to our legacy. I'm accepting the challenge."
Tucker has certainly been doing that, averaging 20.4 points, 5.5 points and 2.0 assists. The senior forward has seven straight 20-point games, the longest such stretch by a Wisconsin player since Clarence Sherrod accomplished the feat from Feb. 13-March 6, 1971.
Tucker is averaging 24.3 points on the road - nearly six more than his home average.
"If there is a player who was ever responsible for his team being ranked No. 1, it's Alando Tucker," Ryan said. "If there is an MVP, it's him."
After going just 1-for-6 in the first half Saturday, Tucker bounced back to finish with 22 points as Wisconsin won 75-49 over Penn State. That type of in-game improvement has been typical for the Badgers, who have shot better than 50.0 percent in the second half of each of the last eight games.
Wisconsin is a combined 99 of 181 (54.7 percent) in the second half during that stretch, and 71 of 180 (39.4 percent) in the first half.
Kammron Taylor scored 18 points Saturday and reserve Jason Bohannon added a career-high 11 as Wisconsin's bench outscored Penn State's reserves 25-2. The Badgers set a single-season school record with 26 wins and their 12th Big Ten victory matched a school record set in the 2003-04 season.
"You have to go beat them. They don't beat themselves very often," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. "And maybe that's the best compliment you can give a team."
The Spartans are 1-15 all-time against No. 1-ranked opponents but had no problems Saturday in an 81-49 rout of Iowa, their second straight win following a four-game skid. That slide included two losses to the Buckeyes, the latest of which was Michigan State's lone home loss of the season.
Drew Neitzel - who leads the Spartans with 18.1 points - had five 3-pointers and scored 17 points while Raymar Morgan added 16. Michigan State took control of the game with an 18-0 first-half run and used the stifling defense that has limited opponents to just 56.0 points - the Big Ten's best mark.
That defense will face a challenge in Wisconsin, which is second in the Big Ten at 73.4 points per game.
Michigan State won the last meeting between these teams, 74-65 on March 2, despite Tucker scoring 19 of his 23 points in the second half.
The Spartans hold a 40-14 all-time advantage in East Lansing, but Wisconsin is 7-2 against Michigan State under Ryan.
by: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us
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