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Michigan State Basketball Preview: Wisconsin

Looking at the #RealRival

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

When Wisconsin Has the Ball

Wisconsin isn't going to beat themselves offensively. They won't turn the ball over much (#1 in the nation in turnover percentage), they're going to get to the line some, and they're going to shoot the ball well. They won't rebound the ball offensively that well, but that's because they're getting back to prevent transition opportunities.

To limit Wisconsin, MSU is going to have to be significantly more dialed-in than they were against Minnesota; we know Wisconsin will use the entire shot clock and has the shooters to make MSU defensive lapses hurt. If Wisconsin takes care of the ball as they usually do, that'll also have the effect of stopping MSU from getting out in transition.

You all know about Frank Kaminsky, and he's certain to have a pretty good game against Mavin Costelling. But Nigel Hayes is a guy that scares me as well as his free throw rate ranks third in Big Ten play. If Hayes can get Branden Dawson and/or Denzel Valentine into foul trouble, this might be an especially long game for MSU.

When MSU Has the Ball

Wisconsin hasn't been incredible defensively, and some of that probably has to do with just six players playing more than 15 minutes per game. They're still top-50 nationally, though, and that starts with rebounding well (#2 in the country in terms of defensive rebounding) and not fouling (#1 in the country in terms of defensive free throw rate). With Wisconsin's short bench, it would be nice if MSU had the horses to draw fouls and make Bo Ryan get into his bench. Unfortunately, MSU won't likely be that aggressive.

Wisconsin also makes individuals beat them defensively, where they're tops in the nation in terms of opponents assisted field goal percentage. That's going to be a strength-on-strength matchup; if MSU can whip the ball around as they usually do, then MSU may be able to score at a rate that could make this game competitive.

Wisconsin doesn't allow very many three-point attempts (#8 nationally) , but they do allow a high percentage of threes when they're taken (#219 nationally). If Denzel Valentine, Travis Trice, and Bryn Forbes can find some space on the perimeter, that would be hugely helpful, too.

So You're Saying There's a Chance?

To steal a SpartanDan phrase, it's in Lloyd Christmas territory. If MSU shoots 50% from three, limits turnovers, and dominates the boards? Sure. Is that gonna happen? No. The paths exist, but they're not very well traveled.

A win would eliminate any question of the bubble. A loss means that there are just two more regular-season opportunities to cinch up a bid.


That's about all there is to say. It'll be a basketball game.

MSU 55 - Wisconsin 67