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Wisconsin

at

Michigan St

College Basketball Pick

2/26/17

Wisconsin remains in contention for the Big Ten regular season title, while Michigan State is still clinging to hopes of a top-four seed for the Big Ten tournament. The Badgers come into this one having traveled to Ohio State on Thursday with this also being their last true road game of the season. The opposite can be said for the Spartans, who will have their last game at Breslin this season. But while it may be senior night, this team only has one of its four-scholarship seniors left playing with Eron Harris injuring his knee last weekend.

The full affect of that Harris injury will play itself out over the next week, but other players will undoubtedly have to step up, especially against Wisconsin. The Badgers have been far from reliant on the road this season, losing at Michigan (without Bronson Koenig) and going to overtime against teams like Rutgers and Nebraska. The hope for the Spartans is that home-court advantage is enough to upset one of the Big Ten’s best, as their only home loss of conference play came against Purdue.

The first way to dealing with Wisconsin is to limit what Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes can do in the paint. The problem for MSU is that Nick Ward will probably be on Happ and Miles Bridges on Hayes, neither being above average defenders. If those guys struggle, the Spartans will either have to double team, or find new routes to stopping those guys. Otherwise, Happ and Hayes should have plenty of success, most notably Happ who often runs this team from the post. Koenig also looks to be mostly recovered from his leg injury, but it’s unlikely one guy will be tasked to stop him as Tum Tum Nairn and Cassius Winston are both at a height disadvantage. Koenig has the experience to take smaller players down low, which we could easily see in this game.

Another problem for the Spartans is that Wisconsin is the best in the Big Ten at forcing turnovers, while MSU is on the other side of that. The hope for Michigan State is that it hits shots and limits open threes from the Badgers. But while Wisconsin has a lot of advantages offensively, this isn’t a team that pushes the pace, which is why blowouts rarely occur. Hayes and Happ are good defenders, but Happ has often gotten into foul trouble this season and Ward is best at drawing fouls, while Hayes doesn’t have the athleticism to deal with Bridges. With Harris gone, this is the type of game that could be decided by the role players like Joshua Langford, Alvin Ellis or Matt McQuaid. Outside of Zak Showalter, the Badgers don’t have anyone else known for great defense and that’s where those perimeter players come in.

It may sound easy, but if Ellis, McQuaid and Langford can hit shots for MSU, that could be the deciding factor in this game. This offense tends to struggle when it doesn’t get outside production from those three and with Harris gone, the onus is on them even more. The Badgers have the better and more experienced team, but in East Lansing, it wouldn’t be surprising if someone like senior Alvin Ellis stepped up in his final home appearance.

Our Pick - Michigan St +2.5

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