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Preview: Michigan State at Wisconsin

The Border Battle renews, as the Spartans travel to Madison to face the Badgers.

Sadly, this was the last picture this cameraman ever took.
Sadly, this was the last picture this cameraman ever took.

As we'll tell our now and future children, yes, there was a time when Bo, did in fact, "own" Izzo. In recent years, however, the tide has reversed. Michigan State has gone 8-2 against Wisconsin in five seasons, winning the last five. While it has been torturous in the past to bring wins out of the Kohl Center, that hasn't been the case this year: Michigan, Ohio State, and Northwestern (???) have all walked out of Madison with victories.

That isn't to say the Badgers won't be difficult opponents tomorrow, even if they aren't a prototypical Bo Ryan team, as they are not the slowest team in the Big Ten this year (Michigan and Northwestern are slower). Still, the fingerprints of Badger Bo are there - they don't turn it over (turnovers on 12.7% of possessions to lead Big Ten play), they don't foul (opponents shoot about one free throw for every four field goals attempted, also leading the Big Ten), and forego offensive boards (26.4% OR%) to get back on defense.

Wisconsin still plays the same style it always has under Bo Ryan, but the defense has been surprisingly lacking: the Badgers rank 8th in Big Ten conference play for defensive efficiency. They've compensated for that shortcoming by having the 2nd best offensive efficiency in the Big Ten. Here's who can hurt MSU:

  • Sam Dekker, 6'7" forward - Dekker's three-pointing shooting has been off a bit from last seasons, shooting 31.7% this year compared to 39.1 % last year. However, the projected first-round draft pick is still efficient from inside the arc (57% on his twos).
  • Ben Brust 6'1" guard - Brust has taken more threes (147) than anyone on Wisconsin this season, and has made almost 40% of them (39.5% for the sticklers out there). Has very short hair, like every Wisconsin player ever excepting Mike Bruesewitz.
  • Frank Kaminsky, 7'0" forwardish-centerish sort of thing - The latest model in the "tall white guy who shoots threes" off the Badger assembly line (previous versions - Jared Berggren, Jon Leuer, Brian Butch). Deadly efficient shooting (41% from three, 58% from two). Has hair, unlike previous model years.
So how can MSU walk out of the Kohl center with a win?
  • Keep the rebounding momentum, especially on offense. It will be big having a healthy Payne for this game -- while the Badgers do a good job keeping their opponents off the boards (teams UW play collect about 28% of their misses), they're not particularly concerned with rebounding their misses (they get 29% of them, 290th in Division 1). Allowing the Badgers extra shots will turn their very good offense into a great one.
  • HOLD ONTO THE DARN BALL. This has been Tom Izzo's best team ever in terms of turnovers (TOs on 16.3% of possessions), and Wisconsin isn't a team that plays aggressively on defense in that regard.  Hopefully passes into the stands can be avoided this game.
  • Good Travis Trice needs to show up. While Keith Appling's wrist may allow him to practice today, he's still very doubtful for tomorrow. Trice needs a seven assist, zero turnover performance like he had against Penn State on Thursday.
This should be another great installment of the Border Battle. Let's hope by this time tomorrow the right team from Michigan is in sole possession of first place in the Big Ten.