After a tough loss over the weekend to Michigan, Wisconsin Basketball will look to get back in the win column at home Tuesday against Michigan State.
All good things must come to an end, and Wisconsin’s impressive six-game win streak proved to be no exception.
In a turn of events that few fans saw coming earlier in the season when the team was struggling mightily, the Badgers had a golden opportunity to move into a tie with Michigan for first place in the Big Ten with a win over the Wolverines. Unfortunately, it was not to be, and despite yet another stifling defensive performance, Wisconsin just could not put the ball in the basket in the second half and ultimately took the loss in Ann Arbor.
However, the Badgers will get another chance for a statement win on Tuesday evening at home against No. 11 Michigan State.
The Spartans have struggled as of late and lost three of their last five contests in the wake of losing star guard Joshua Langford to injury, with all three defeats coming consecutively against Illinois, Indiana, and Purdue. However, the confidence of Tom Izzo’s squad may once again be high after a resounding 79-55 beatdown of Minnesota in East Lansing over the weekend.
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As we inch increasingly closer to the postseason, these are two squads who have clearly established themselves as prominent threats to win the Big Ten title and make a deep run in the Big Dance, so it seems likely that we are in for another entertaining matchup on Tuesday.
Which squad comes out of the Kohl Center with the W?
No. 20 WISCONSIN (17-7)
G – D’Mitrik Trice – SO (13.2 ppg)
G – Brad Davison- SO (11.1 ppg)
F – Khalil Iverson – SR (4.8 ppg)
F – Nathan Reuvers – SO (8.4 ppg)
C – Ethan Happ – SR (18.3 ppg)
No. 11 MICHIGAN STATE (19-5)
G – Cassius Winston – JR (18.6 ppg)
G – Matt McQuaid – SR (8.7 ppg)
F – Aaron Henry – FR (4.8 ppg)
F – Kenny Goins – SR (7.0 ppg)
F – Nick Ward – JR (15.5 ppg)
Keys to the game and prediction
While the end result may have been a loss for the Badgers, their showdown with Michigan lived up to its billing as a heavyweight matchup between two elite defensive teams. As expected, the majority of offensive possessions were an absolute dogfight for both squads.
Wisconsin fans should expect more of the same against this Michigan State team.
The Spartans could be even better than the Wolverines defensively. They rank No. 3 nationally in opponent field goal percentage, and if you break it down further, they are No. 1 and No. 66 in two and three-point percentage, respectively.
A huge factor in Michigan State’s success has been the play of their formidable frontcourt trio of Nick Ward (6.7 rebounds, 1.4 blocks per game), Kenny Goins (8.9 rpg, 1.5 bpg), and Xavier Tillman (6.9 rpg, 1.6 bpg). Thanks in large part to those three, the Spartans are No. 5 in blocks and No. 6 in total rebounds nationally.
Like Michigan’s John Beilein, I would look for Izzo to take advantage of the physical defenders he has at his disposal down low and play Ethan Happ straight up rather than send double teams. In doing so, he will be making it harder for Brad Davison, D’Mitrik Trice, and the rest of Wisconsin’s complimentary players to have an impact offensively, and usually, when Happ doesn’t get much from his teammates, that Badgers lose.
That’s what happened against the Wolverines. Happ had a monster first half, but as the game wore on he really started having a tough time against Michigan’s Jon Teske. This coincided with his teammates missing several crucial shots near the basket throughout the game and failing to get to the free throw line even once. To make matters worse, the Badgers made only made four threes. In the end, Happ was the only Badger in double figures.
That type of production is just not going to get it done against a team of Michigan State’s caliber, but I would not be shocked to see a similar showing against these Spartans and their lockdown defense. Insert Ward in place of Teske on Happ, and we could be experiencing some déjà vu on Tuesday night.
That being said, the Badgers will certainly not be a pushover, as they have been playing some incredible defense of their own and should knock in more than four shots from long range in the comfort of their own arena. However, the fact remains that the Spartans are a bad matchup for Wisconsin, and they have their mojo back after blowing out Minnesota.
Wisconsin falls, 66-58.
All stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com