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Michigan State Basketball: Wisconsin Preview

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info

Opponent: Wisconsin

Location: East Lansing, MI

Time: 9:00pm EST

Channel: ESPN

KenPom Line: MSU -9

Scouting report

  • Few things to get out there. Wisconsin is not a deep team. They're 348th of 351 in bench minutes. They play slow as they're 349th in average offensive possession length. They don't really assist much as they're just 291st in assist rate but they allow very few assists as they're 13th in defensive assist rate and 12th in 3PA/FGA meaning they don't want you to do what you want on offense. While that's probably true for everyone, the stats make it seems as though Wisconsin is just better at it.
  • The #1 guy on the scouting report is Nigel Hayes who leads the team in usage and minutes. He also leads the team in assist rate while also being a capable outside shooter who's been better in B1G play. He has a great free throw rate and he knocks down FT's at a 74% clip. MSU will almost definitely start Davis on him and I'm sure Clark will have to guard him for a while so this is probably the matchup to watch.
  • The other player likely to haunt MSU is Broson Koenig who is shooting 39% on 3's despite almost half of them being unassisted. That kind of shot is a killer as it means that the shot may very well have been contested but it goes in anyway. Harris probably draws the assignment on him and MSU would rather have him go to the rim where he's shooting under 50%.
  • Ethan Happ is a redshirt freshman who's likely to be on the All-Freshman team. He has a very good steal rate, solid rebounding rates, and finishes around the rim while also getting fouled. He turns it over a bit much for a Wisconsin player and he's not a great FT shooter (63%) but he's a player that almost any team would take.
  • Vitto Brown has been up and down this season but he's been very good in conference play where he's shooting over 50% from 2 and 40% from 3. He also crashes the offensive glass and shoots well from the FT line for a big man.
  • 6'9" Alex Illikainen is a stretch big man who's been getting more playing time recently and give the Badgers another threat offensively.
  • 6'2" Zak Showalter has a miniscule 13% usage but he's basically only shooting at the rim and from behind the arc where he's been very good after shooting just 14% last year.

Four Factors

MSU on Offense

MSU on Defense

Things to watch for

  • Can MSU avoid fouling? In the last matchup against Wisconsin, MSU had a defensive free throw rate of 76.6% which was the highest of the year. Since then MSU has averaged just a 27.3% which would rank 17th nationally. Some of those were just against bad teams but it also appears MSU has been adjusting better to how fouls are being called this year. However, Wisconsin is taking advantage of their size and Hayes/Happ's ability to draw fouls. I hate it but it's what they've been good at recently.
  • Can Harris/Davis slow down Koenig/Hayes? Wisconsin's two players who play the most minutes also play at positions where MSU might be its weakest defensively. Valentine likely takes Vitto Brown again where Davis and Clark will probably have to guard the veteran Hayes. Koenig was the KenPom MVP and has the ability and greenlight to pullup contested 3's. MSU will probably be better prepared for Happ this time around but Hayes and Koenig scare me a bit more.
Bottom Line

I like MSU's chances in this one. They have a homecourt advantage where they won't get called for terrible ticky-tack fouls they'll have the crowd on their side. The first game against Wisconsin was also the first game without Nairn where they weren't entirely set on Valentine as full-time PG (this led to a Schilling turnover where no one waited back to receive the ball on an inbound).

MSU 71 - Wisconsin 65