While Wisconsin is no longer ranked in the AP Polls, it still is a respectable No. 11 in the RPI which is kind of confusing. Rankings are usually the other way around with teams being ranked higher in the AP than their RPI. The Badgers have lost three straight home Games and five of their last seven, yet somehow the RPI has them in the Top 11 in the country.
Nevertheless, if they don’t get their act together it’s going to be Four straight home losses as Michigan State is aiming for the Big Ten regular season title. And despite a major list of injuries, the Spartans can consider themselves one of the best teams in the country, No. 10 in the RPI to be exact.
The one thing to keep an eye on for this Game is the status of MSU’s point guard Keith Appling, who missed Thursday’s Game due to a bad wrist. Tom Izzo stated that he has “no idea” when Appling will be ready to play so that’s not exactly a good sign. If he can’t go, Travis Trice will get another start which isn’t a terrible thing, especially after the junior racked up seven assists and zero turnovers in that win against Penn State.
Of course, the addition of Adreian Payne into the lineup was a major boost for the Spartans in that Game and it looks like the big man isn’t rusty at all finishing with 12 points in 18 minutes.
As for the Badgers, they’re still figuring things out and are coming off a nice road win at Illinois. Their losing started because of poor defense and then against Northwestern and Ohio State, the offense only managed 115 points in two Games. At this point, there’s no real telling of what Wisconsin will do here, but it’s a big Game for them with road Games at Michigan and Iowa coming up.
This Game will come down to if Wisconsin can make its shots or not. Leading scorer Sam Dekker (13.7 PPG) managed Four points in the loss against Ohio State, but came back with 16 against Illinois. Traevon Jackson (11 PPG) came out of his slump a bit as well with 14 points against Illinois. Ben Brust (13.3 PPG) has been the most consistent of them all, but it’s not like he’s shooting all that efficiently. Frank Kaminsky, known for his 43-point Game, has done nothing as of recent and now gets to matchup with Payne and Matt Costello.
The only question for the MSU defense will be who’s going to guard Dekker. At 6-8, Dekker plays an athletic power forward for the Badgers and he could end up being guarded by the smaller Denzel Valentine. Although if Payne and Costello start, we might see the bigger Payne on him. Gary Harris (18.2 PPG) is one of the best players in the Big Ten and should be able to contain Brust or anyone else he guards.
If Appling can’t go, players like Kenny Kaminski (19 points vs. PSU) and Costello (9 PPG last three Games) will have to step up again. Valentine is a pure glue guy and does just about everything for the Spartans while Payne gives the team an inside and outside threat, which they’ve missed over the past couple weeks.
This should be a close Game throughout, but in the end it’s going to come down to the unpredictability of the Badgers. They’ve been far from consistent and you never know what to expect from them. Even if Appling can’t go for Michigan State, one would have to lean toward the Spartans in this Game as long as Payne gets 20-25 minutes.
Predicted Score- Wisconsin 73 Michigan State 68