Tuesday features a Big Ten matchup of top-25 teams when the No. 11 Michigan State Spartans (19-5, 10-3 in the Big Ten) travel to the Kohl Center to take on the No. 20 Wisconsin Badgers (17-7, 9-4 in the Big Ten).
For Michigan State, they have faced a ton of adversity lately, losing three of their last four games. Still, at 19-5 overall and sitting 3rdin the Big Ten, Michigan State has shown that they can be dangerous when they put it all together. For Wisconsin, they come in having won six of their last seven games, including a split with No. 6 Michigan that saw them win at home and lose on the road. Wisconsin is battle tested against top-ranked teams and even in their losses, have played teams close. Michigan State and Wisconsin will battle it out on Tuesday with tipoff scheduled for 7:00 pm ET.
In this contest, the Wisconsin Badgers come in as 1-point favorites playing at home, essentially making this a pick’em game. The over/under for this game is set at 130.5 points.
By The Numbers
Defensively, Wisconsin has been one of the best teams in the nation, currently ranking 8th overall and allowing just 61 points per game. Opposing teams are shooting just 39.3% from the field against them (16th overall) and play smart defense, ranking 45th in the nation in fewest fouls. For Michigan State, they also play decent defense, allowing 67.5 points per game to opponents, which is good for 78th in the nation.
On the offensive side, the tables are reversed. Michigan State is the much stronger team, averaging 82 points per game (good for 27th in the nation). They are efficient in their offense, ranking 10th in the nation in field goal percentage (49.4% from the field). They also distribute the ball well, averaging 19.9 assists per game (good for 2nd overall). For Wisconsin, they are a lot weaker on the offensive side, ranking 225th in the nation in scoring (71.4 points per game).
Michigan State Looking To Regain Consistency
Earlier in the schedule, the Spartans were beating teams like No. 21 Iowa and No. 12 Purdue with ease. As of late, they have been losing to unranked teams like Illinois and Indiana. Needless to say, Tom Izzo’s group needs to refocus as March is rapidly approaching.
Leading the way for the Spartans are a pair of juniors in guard Cassius Winston and forward Nick Ward. For Winston, he is averaging 18.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is also shooting 47.7% from the field and 44.5% from behind the arc. For Ward, he is averaging 15.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game while also shooting a whopping 61.2% from the field. With Joshua Langford having dealt with health issues for some time now, these two have had to step up.
Beyond these two, the Spartans have four other players averaging more than five points with Matt McQuaid (8.7 points, 3 rebounds, 2.4 assists) and Xavier Tillman (8.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1 steal, 1.6 blocks) being the biggest of the contributors.
Wisconsin Hoping To Improve Their Seeding Come March
While a Big Ten title is a long shot, Wisconsin still can certainly improve their seeding in the NCAA bracket. While they might currently sit at around a five seed if the brackets were filled in today, signature wins over top-25 teams like Michigan State could certainly move that seeding up higher.
Leading the way for the Badgers is forward Ethan Happ. On the season, Happ is averaging 18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1 steal and 1.3 blocks per game. He is a beast in almost all facets of the game. In addition to the gaudy stat line, he is also shooting 54.8% from the field (although he is shooting a miserable 47.1% from the free throw line).
Aside from Happ, the other leading scorers for Wisconsin are D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison. For Trice, the guard is averaging 13.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game while shooting 42.9% from the field and 44.9% from behind the arc. Davison is averaging 11.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is averaging 43.3% from the field and 43.2% from the three.
Both Come Back To Reality
For me, this is a game where both teams come back to reality a little bit. For Michigan State, they are better than they have been playing as of late and for Wisconsin, they may be playing a little over their heads. That is not to say that Wisconsin is a bad team because their defense certainly has proven otherwise, but I just don’t trust the offense beyond Happ. For me, I think this is a critical game for Izzo’s Spartans and one that I think Cassius Winston and Nick Ward step up for. For my money, I am taking Michigan State at +1.