OUt of nowhere, Wisconsin has become one of the more talked about teams in the Big Ten. The Badgers have won seven straight and are most recently coming off a 13-point road win at Maryland, the No. 2 team in the country at the time. It was a result no one expected and now they get to follow that up with a Game in East LAnsing against a Top 10 team.
Michigan State has five Conference losses, but is still ranked as one of the best teams in the country. The Spartans have played solid basketball for the last few weeks and are coming off a 19-point win over Indiana. Their only loss in recent weeks came at Purdue last week, in a tough overtime Game that could’ve went either way.
The first time these teams played, Michigan State more or less gave the Game away in Madison. The Spartans were up by Four with 30 seconds to go when Bronson Koenig hit a three-pointer. Then MSU was sloppy and turned it over and that led to an Ethan Happ bucket to take the lead, which ended up being it. It was a back-and-forth Game throughout with Nigel Hayes scoring 25 and Koenig with 27 points to lead the Badgers.
The Spartans were still figuring out an identity in that Game as Denzel Valentine was recently off his knee surgery and second-leading scorer Bryn Forbes actually came off the bench. Nevertheless, Michigan State will need to figure out a way to contain Hayes and Koenig, at least somewhat.
A bit of Wisconsin’s recent success has come with an improved Vitto Brown, who has 51 points in the last three Games after only averaging 9.5 on the year. Brown has found a stroke from deep, hitting six threes in the last two Games, which has been huge for the Badgers. If that continues to happen, that will only leave mores space for Hayes and Happ. Brown didn’t do much in the first meeting, only playing 21 minutes and scoring five points. To get another huge road win, Brown is once again the x-factor.
The Spartans tried to do everything to stop Hayes in the first Game, even putting Denzel Valentine on him, but that still didn’t matter when Koenig was driving past whoever guarded him. MSU’s defense has been better, but there’s no reason they won’t have problems with these guys again. The Badgers are starting to find their edge and the Spartans are still without a healthy Tum Tum Nairn, who is one guy that could limit Koenig’s open looks.
The other end will be what decides the Game as Michigan State’s offense has been cruising, scoring 80-plus points in Four straight Games. Valentine is averaging a ridiculous 22.9 points, 7.8 boards and 7.9 assists per Game over the last eight contests. Wisconsin used Hayes on Valentine last Game, and that worked to an extent, but Valentine still had 23 points. Matt Costello will again be a problem down low after dropping 18 and 13 in the first meeting. The Badgers don’t have great post defense and that’s where Costello could shine.
Wisconsin is on an unprecedented run right now, considering how bad they were in non-Conference play. A win here is improbable, but maybe it’s time to stop doubting the Badgers. Still, it may be a little crazy to bet against the Spartans at home after they just torched the Hoosiers.
Score Prediction – Michigan State 75 Wisconsin 64