Spartans, Badgers rivalry keeps growing

The football teams score as many points as the basketball teams. The basketball teams might be more physical than the football teams — somehow.

And when they meet, the fans make it look like Christmas in the stands, but on the field, it’s anything but filled with happy feelings.

Michigan State and Wisconsin have formed one of the best rivalries in the Big Ten.

In basketball, it has been going for about ten years, marked in particular by the arrival of Bo Ryan at Wisconsin. In football, it has taken off under Mark Dantonio.

In the first meeting of this basketball season, it came down to an overtime win for the Spartans after what could have been a buzzer-beating 3-pointer was ruled to have come after time expired.

Bo Ryan screams at the refs following the end of the Badgers overtime loss to MSU on Jan. 4 (CBS Sports Photo)

Ryan went livid and lost it. It was the first time Tom Izzo won at the Kohl Center, but he still has a losing record against Ryan at 7-13.

Just another game on the hardwood between the Spartans and Badgers.

The clear-cut best football game of the 2011 season featured these two schools and a Hail Mary play for the ages. That was just the exclamation point on a recent series of games between Dantonio and Bret Bielema, who have a 3-3 record against each other with an average margin of victory of about five points.

There is little question these two are the rising programs in the Big Ten and meeting in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game is pretty stellar, too.

There is no question Michigan is and always will be the biggest rival for Michigan State, but in the past decade,Wisconsin has emerged as a quality rival.

In every clash, there is a high level of excitement — even with Ryan’s style of play which makes watching paint dry seem an enviable high-paced event.

Basketball is where this heated rivalry started, and it was well reflected in the postgame comments made by Ryan.

Unhappy about the ruling which resulted in a Badgers loss, he said “payback is payback,” likely referencing his win at Breslin in 2002.

Fact is, Izzo and Ryan are both very successful coaches. Ryan has tremendous Big Ten success, winning three conference championships and two postseason tournament titles. However, he has just one elite eight appearance (2005).

Izzo has the postseason success which has eluded Ryan — with four elite eight appearances and three Final Fours in the same time period. He also has two regular-season Big Ten titles.

They also are two coaches very much disliked by the other team’s fans. Ryan — and Bielema for that matter — probably ranks as the most hated coach for Spartans fans. Izzo likely takes the same honor in the eyes of Badgers fans.

Both coaches are filled with pride and determination in controlling the pace of a game and teach similar disciplines, such as rebounding for guards.

They have played to games like Drew Neitzel’s dominant 27-point performance in an upset of No. 2 Wisconsin in 2007.

And they have had incidents which fans explode over, like Neitzel’s collision with Wisconsin’s Michael Flowers in the same season.

As stated above, every game carries a high level of excitement.

And when the Spartans and Badgers square off tomorrow at Breslin Center, it will have plenty of excitement.

Wisconsin has won seven of its past eight, and is back ranked at No. 15. The Spartans are ranked No. 7 and coming off a win against Ohio State.

Michigan State is 9-3 in the Big Ten, Wisconsin is 8-4. It’s a game for postseason tournament seeding, both conference and tournament, and it’s a game for pride.

It’s a rivalry after all — and it’s heated.

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Posted on February 15, 2012, in Basketball and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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