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Michigan State Spartans Basketball: Wisconsin Preview

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David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in 15 years, MSU takes on a Wisconsin team not coached by Bo Ryan. For this, and some other reasons, this is not your slightly older brother's Wisconsin team. This is the worst edition of Wisconsin basketball in the KenPom era; the Badgers are 62nd in KenPom's rankings. You have to go back to 2006 to see a Badger team worse than 28th by KenPom's standards.

When Wisconsin Has The Ball

The massive losses from a year ago of Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson, and Duje Dukan have caused Wisconsin's offense to fall off of a cliff. In the last two years, Wisconsin has been a top-5 offense in terms of efficiency; this year they're 113th.

It's pretty easy to see why that's the case. Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig, and Vitto Brown have all had to take on much larger roles and because of that Wisconsin has seen an uptick in turnover rate and a steep drop off in effective field goal percentage. It's hard to have everyone grow up at the same time.

The glass on this side of the ball will be absolutely crucial in this game. If Wisconsin can't get offensive rebounds, they'd probably need to win the three-point lottery to get the efficiency they'd need to win the game.

When MSU Has The Ball

Wisconsin has become a little more efficient defensively from a year ago, largely by being more aggressive in forcing turnovers; they were terrible at forcing turnovers a year ago.

But again, the Badgers' strength is on the glass, thanks largely to freshman big man Ethan Happ who has come out of nowhere to become a top-50 defensive rebounder. Happ is also just generally pesky, and you will hate him almost immediately.

If MSU can avoid turning the ball over and be competitive on the glass, I'm bullish on their ability to score efficiently. Wisconsin is 299th nationally in three-point percentage allowed; that's almost certainly somewhat random but also potentially a good sign for a perimeter-heavy MSU team.

Conclusion and Prediction

Look, the Iowa game was bad. There's no denying that. But there's also no denying that MSU was impressive in wins against Kansas, Louisville and Providence.

There are also plenty of reasons to believe the Iowa game was a blip and not an indicator of impending regression. Iowa was +26.5% from behind the arc, and MSU turned the ball over on nearly a quarter (23.2%) of possessions. I don't think those things are likely to happen again.

Wisconsin is coming off of three straight Big Ten losses, and have some serious questions offensively. The path to a Badger victory in this game is narrow, and requires either a continuation of the sloppy play from MSU or a decisive victory on the boards. I just can't see that happening with this team after the way the Iowa game went down.

MSU 70 - Wisconsin 62