Thursday’s game between Wisconsin and Michigan State on Thursday in East Lansing will effectively decide the Badgers’ role down the stretch of the Big Ten season. Win and become a real player for the conference championship again. Lose and all but settle for battling for seeding in late February and early March. The first meeting in Madison was about as close as one can be — a Ryan Evans three-pointer was in his hand for about a nanosecond too long to force a second overtime.
A close home game tends to signal victory for the traveler in a rematch at their building. Beyond that, the Spartans hold one of the nation’s best resumes after taking out Ohio State in Columbus, so Michigan State will justifiably be the favorites on Thursday. But there is some reason for optimism — beyond how well Wisconsin has played on the road this season (fifth in TeamRankings.com’s road power ratings), Wisconsin did some very good things against Michigan State in the first matchup.
Limit Draymond Green
In four of Michigan State’s five losses — excepting at Northwestern — Green struggled mightily on the offensive end, shooting under 40% and turning the ball over five times. Although Wisconsin was only able to force Green to turn it over once — something they rarely do on defense — they did force Green into a poor shooting night. The Spartan superstar only succeeded on six of his 19 shots at the Kohl Center, scoring 18 points on 24 total possessions.
Michigan State rebounded 12 of their 36 missed shot. The Spartans rank ninth in the nation in offensive rebound rate according to KenPom.com, pulling in nearly 40% of their missed shots in the typical game. The Spartans have more size beyond just Green, as Branden Dawson, Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne all excel on the offensive glass, pulling in over 10% of missed shots while on the court. In managing to pull down a third of Sparty’s missed shots, the Badgers outdid all but seven teams who have played the Spartans this year.
Get To The Line
The Badgers attempted 27 free throws in a game where the shot 54 field goals. Wisconsin rarely spends that much of a game at the line, and hasn’t really since the teams headlined by Alando Tucker. Only in the win at Purdue did the Badgers attempt more free throws as a rate against field goals attempted (60%). Jordan Taylor was particularly effective against Keith Appling and the rest of Michigan State’s guards, picking up 12 of his 27 points at the line, although he did miss a key free throw late which would have given the Badgers the lead prior to the last shot of regulation. Taylor may have to do that again to keep the Badgers’ offense ticking.