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Previewing MSU at Wisconsin

"Violence is out of the question"
"Violence is out of the question"
Mary Langenfeld-US PRESSWIRE

Game time: 7 p.m.
Location: Kohl Center, Madison, Wisc.
Online streaming:
Radio: Spartan Sports Network

2012 was a good year in the #BorderBattle. The basketball team started with its first win in Madison since 2001 and followed that up with a win in East Lansing and another in Indianapolis. Despite the football team's struggles in the fall, they also won in Madison for the first time since 2001.

Now it's 2013, and first place will be on the line in Madison as the 5-1 Spartans and 4-1 Badgers face off Tuesday night.

Despite a win against Ohio State on Saturday, the Spartans actually dropped one spot in KenPom to No. 19 overall. The Badgers, meanwhile, had quite a week. Last Tuesday, they went into Bloomington and downed the Hoosiers, but followed that up by falling behind by nearly 30 points at Iowa. The final score (70-66) made that look respectable in what is a tough place to play, but it was clearly a Jekyll and Hyde week. The Badgers, always a favorite in the KP ratings, moved from No. 15 to 11 after the win at Indiana, but dropped back to No. 15 after the Iowa loss.

The Badgers are 13-5 on the season, though all five of those losses came to top-40 KenPom teams.

This is still a Bo Ryan team. They're No. 22 in adjusted offense with a tempo of 62.8 possession per game, which is No. 309.

The Badgers have an eFG% of 51.1, which is No. 71. They shoot 50.2 percent on 2s and 35.1 percent on 3s. One thing I'll be watching is turnovers. Wisconsin is No. 1 in the nation in turnover% at just 14.4 percent. It's the same number in conference play. Meanwhile, while MSU isn't that great at forcing turnovers, but it's getting steals at 13.1 percent.

Jared Berggren is the leading scorer at 12.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. His offensive rating of 125.4 is No. 25 in the nation. He can score inside and from 3 (31 percent). The player with the most usage is Ryan Evans at 26.2 percent (four percent more than the next closest player). He averages 11.2 points and 7.6 points per game. His greatest asset is two-point jumping ability, especially on the baseline.

It will be interesting to see how Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne are used in this situation. Berggren is the center, but like I said above, he can pop out and shoot the 3. That would seem benefit Payne's defensive skillset. But that would leave Nix on the quick (and 6-foot-6) Evans. Nix has had major trouble guarding players who can shoot the 3 in the past. We'll see what Izzo goes with. I was surprised he kept Payne on Deshaun Thomas virtually all game, after all. It's going to be a lot of screens. We'll see if the centers can handle it.

Elsewhere, five other players average more than 18 minutes a game. Frank Kaminsky averages 10 minutes, but he's out with an eye injury. Meanwhile, George Marshall (18.9 minutes, 5.7 points) missed Monday's practice with an illness. So expect someone you've never heard of to score a career-high. You'll also notice Mike Bruesewitz (with his red afro back), averaging 7.4 points and 5.1 rebounds. My guess is Keith Appling will be tasked with shutting down Traevon Jackson (5.5 points, 2.2 assists, 2.0 rebounds, 1.6 turnovers).

KJ found an interesting stat that MSU is last in the Big Ten in 2P% defense in conference games. That was odd.

The Badgers haven't done a good job of getting to the line (No. 301 in FTA/FGA), and they're not shooting well there, either (62.4 percent). Perhaps most odd is Evans shooting 39 percent from the line, despite being a great medium-range jump-shooter. On the glass, Wisconsin is grabbing 35.8 percent of its misses, which is actually better than MSU, same with their opponent OR% of 26.1. MSU is just eighth in the conference in OR%, but one would imagine having Adreian Payne playing power forward now will help that.

Defensively, the Badgers are No. 13 in adjD, with opponents shooting 43.3 percent on 2s and 30.4 percent on 3s. Nix should have a strength advantage, but Payne won't necessarily be a matchup problem against versatile big men. Appling continues to take care of the ball, and MSU's turnover percentage is down to 17.3 in conference play. If the turnovers return, it could be a long night. In year's past, a hot-shooting Wisconsin team has run the Spartans out of the building. If that happens, nothing you can do about it.

The next two games do not provide much chance for victory (at Indiana on Sunday). KenPom projects a 63-58 Wisconsin win, giving MSU just a 28 percent chance of winning.

For some reason, I've got a feeling about this one. But then again, I had a feeling Ohio State would win last Saturday, so what do I know.