No. 2 Spartans can win title outright at Wisconsin
Sophomore guard Brevin Pritzl and redshirt junior forward Andy Van Vliet have shouldered some of the load on offense of late for Wisconsin.
Contributions from multiple players will be needed when the Badgers (14-16, 7-10 Big Ten) host No. 2 Michigan State on Sunday in the Big Ten Conference regular-season finale for both teams.
The Spartans (27-3, 15-2) have won 11 straight games since a 10-point defeat at home to Michigan on Jan. 13. Michigan State secured at least a share of the Big Ten title on Tuesday with a 20-point home victory against Illinois.
A loss to the Badgers will allow Ohio State to earn a share of the conference championship.
Van Vliet scored 14 points and was 4 of 6 from 3-point range to help boost Wisconsin to a 70-64 victory at Northwestern on Thursday night.
The 7-footer, a native of Antwerp, Belgium, played a career-high 24 minutes in a reserve role against the Wildcats. Leading up to the game, Van Vliet had played 14 minutes total in four league games this season.
Wisconsin redshirt junior forward Ethan Happ, who scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the second half, said he was happy to see Van Vliet’s effort.
“I’m really proud of him for just sticking with it,” Happ told the Wisconsin State Journal. “He hasn’t been in in awhile, and then he comes in and does that.”
Pritzl, who drained a critical 3-pointer with less than 30 seconds to go at Northwestern, has averaged 11.4 points and 3.8 rebounds in the Badgers’ last five games.
The Northwestern victory was the third straight for Wisconsin, which secured the No. 9 seed in next week’s Big Ten tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York. The Badgers square off against Maryland on Thursday.
Michigan State treks to Madison to play three days after Spartans coach Tom Izzo and sophomore guard/forward Miles Bridges were among the people mentioned in a federal report that outlined impermissible benefits attained from ex-NBA agents.
Bridges, a native of Flint, Mich., was tabbed as the Big Ten preseason player of the year. His mother, Cynthia Bridges, also is named in the federal probe, according to a Detroit Free Press report.
On Saturday, the school announced that Bridges was cleared of any wrongdoing and will play in Sunday’s matchup.
“After learning of the allegations in yesterday’s Yahoo! Sports article, our compliance office conducted a thorough internal review. Michigan State presented its findings to the NCAA, and Miles Bridges has been cleared for competition moving forward, beginning Sunday at Wisconsin,” interim athletic director Bill Beekman said in a statement.
Bridges is the Spartans’ scoring leader at 17.1 points per game and is second in rebounding with an average of 6.8 boards. Sophomore guard Nick Ward averages 10.8 points.
Izzo said that Michigan State has the ability to achieve more postseason success.
“I look at it like we have other things to accomplish,” Izzo said after the Illinois win. “Banners are what we like to do here, but it’s one of those years when I’m not satisfied with that one.”
The Spartans have lost three in a row in Madison, and the current group has never won at the Kohl Center.
Bridges and Miles combined for 36 points in a 76-61 win over Wisconsin last month at the Breslin Center. Ward had 11 rebounds.
Happ scored a team-high 23 points and Pritzl added 13 for the Badgers in East Lansing. Wisconsin shot a woeful 20.8 percent from long range in the setback.