It’s a Big Ten showdown as Tom Izzo brings his No. 5 Michigan State Spartans (19-3, 9-0) to Madison for a tilt with Bo Ryan’s No. 16 Wisconsin Badgers (16-5, 6-3).
Michigan State could gain a four-game edge on Wisconsin in the Big Ten standings. The Badgers are currently tied for second with Purdue, Ohio State, and Illinois.
Michigan State is riding an eight-game winning streak, including two of the last three on the road. Wisconsin has lost two of four but won their previous two home games. Wisconsin will be without their second-leading scorer, Jon Leuer, who has an injured wrist.
The Spartans beat the Badgers last month, 54-47. Chris Allen scored 16, and Draymond Green contributed 11 off the bench. Michigan State outrebounded Wisconsin, 38-23.
MSU leads the series, 68-58. Wisconsin has won 17 in a row at the Kohl Center.
The Spartans have made 23 NCAA Tournament appearances, including last year’s loss in the National Championship game. Izzo led the Spartans to the title in 2000. Under Izzo the Spartans have advanced to five Final Fours.
Wisconsin has earned 15 NCAA Tournament berths. Last year, the Badgers lost in the second round. Ryan has led Wisconsin to the Sweet 16 twice (‘03 and ‘08) and once to the Elite Eight (‘05).
Thirty-seven Spartans have earned roster spots in the National Basketball Association, including current players Charlie Bell, Shannon Brown, Paul Davis, Morris Peterson, Zach Randolph, and Jason Richardson.
Twenty Badgers have stepped on the court in the Association. Michael Finley, Devin Harris, Marcus Landry, and Alando Tucker all have current spots on NBA rosters.
Michigan State turns the ball over 14 times a game. Wisconsin gets almost six steals per contest. The Spartans have a rebound margin of 9.8, while Wisconsin is limited to a margin of 2.6.
Wisconsin is sixth in the nation in scoring defense, limiting opponents to just 57.1 points per game. With patience, the Badgers can create Spartan mistakes.
Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, and Chris Allen are athletic and experienced. Sometimes the trio of guards hurries when trying to play fast. Wisconsin’s transition defense will need to make the initial stop of the Spartan rush. Then the Badgers will need to play defense inside the arc to limit Lucas and Allen off the dribble.
Trevon Hughes, Jason Bohannon, and Jordan Taylor will be responsible for slowing down the Spartan backcourt. The three combine for nearly 36 points and nine assists per game.
Keaton Nankivil will try to make up for the loss of Leuer. Nankivil averages eight points and just under five rebounds.
Lucas, Summers, and Allen combine for 36 points a game. Raymar Morgan and Delvon Roe grab almost 12 rebounds. The frontcourt duo hits over 56 percent of their shots from the field.
Earlier this year, Wisconsin created 11 turnovers while committing just four in a defeat of Duke. They will need a similar performance tonight. The Badgers need to execute long possessions that will force Michigan State to work on the defensive end.
Bo Ryan needs someone to step up in the absence of Leuer. Look for Rob Wilson or Ryan Evans to fill the void.
This is the third of four on the road for the Spartans. They are ripe for an upset. Wisconsin hits 74 percent from the line, while MSU finishes 68 percent of the time from the stripe. Wisconsin needs a victory, and the Badgers will win a single-digit affair tonight.