College Basketball Pick
With Denzel Valentine back, Michigan State is trying to reassert itself as the No. 1 team in the nation. However, things didn’t go to plan in their rematch with Iowa on Thursday. The Spartans fell big against the Hawkeyes in East LAnsing.
This season has been a little different for Wisconsin, considering how good the Badgers have been in recent seasons. The Badgers are just 1-4 in Conference play and 9-9 overall and it’s hard to see them making the NCAA Tourney unless they improve quick. Wisconsin continues to battle each night, but never has enough scoring to get those wins. The Badgers have lost their Four Big Ten Games by a combined 15 points. But that doesn’t matter in the end if they can’t put together some good wins.
Upsetting Michigan State would fall into that ‘good win’ category. Wisconsin’s top two (and maybe only) threats are Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig, who are combining for 29.4 points per Game. While that’s nice, both of them are struggling efficiency-wise compared to last year, mainly because they are getting more defensive attention. With Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky gone, those two have needed to do everything for the team and it’s not enough.
Ethan Happ, Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter are good players, but maybe serve best in a bench role. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, that can’t be the case as those guys all need to play significant minutes. And without a deep roster, that makes things extremely difficult for the Badgers.
The first task against Michigan State will be finding a way to limit Denzel Valentine (17.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 6.8 apg). So far, that’s been almost impossible as he’s averaging those numbers in only 30 minutes per Game. It’ll be interesting to see how Wisconsin matches up with Valentine because Ethan Happ and Vitto Brown both have a size advantage, but Valentine has almost every other advantage there is.
Hayes will be tied to Matt Costello on the defensive end unless they want to use him on the less efficient Gavin SChilling in the post. SChilling will likely defend Hayes and MSU is fine with that pairing. OUtside of Valentine, the Spartans can get plenty of scoring from Bryn Forbes and Eron Harris. At this point, defenses have to face guard Forbes because he’s been lights out from deep (especially with Valentine on the floor) shooting close to 50% on the year. Along with that, Harris picked up his Game in Valentine’s absence and is only another problem for opponents, as he’ll be coming off the bench.
The one advantage for Wisconsin is Bronson Koenig, who is a taller point guard. MSU may go with Tum Tum Nairn on him, but the height difference could quickly become an issue for Nairn. If that’s the case, either Forbes or Valentine may see time on him. Koenig has been good this year, but again, in a larger role, has to shoot better than 40%, there’s no way around it.
The Spartans are a deep team and with how vulnerable the Badgers have looked at home this year, this should be chalked up to another win for Michigan State.
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