The Wisconsin Badgers are looking to bounce back after a rare home loss to the lowly Iowa Hawkeyes as they take on the 10th ranked Michigan State Spartans tonight at the Kohl Center. The game is at 6 p.m. and will be televised nationally by ESPN2 with Bob Wischusen and Dan Dakish on the call.
Michigan State leads the all-time series between the two teams 69-60 with Wisconsin holding a decisive 43-22 edge in Madison. Under Bo Ryan, the Badgers are 13-6 against the Spartans, including an 8-0 mark at the Kohl Center. The last meeting between the two teams was Super Bowl Sunday in February as the Badgers dominated Michigan State 82-56. Jordan Taylor scored a then-career high 30 points in the blowout.
The Badgers have not lost back-to-back home games since 2008-09 when the Badgers dropped two straight in heartbreaking fashion to Minnesota and Purdue.
Michigan State is one of the hottest teams in the nation, winning its last 13 games after dropping its first two against North Carolina and Duke. The Spartans are led by senior forward Draymond Green and sophomore guard Keith Appling. Green leads the team in scoring with 15.4 points per game as well as rebounding with 9.5 rebounds per game. He also is second on the team in assists averaging 3.3 per game. Appling, who is second on Michigan State with 12.3 points per game, including shooting 46 percent from the field, was just named the Big Ten Co-Player of the Week. He also leads the team in assists, averaging 3.7 assists per game.
Senior transfer Brandon Wood, who has spent the past two years at Valparaiso after transferring from Southern Illinois, has given the Spartans a spark this season, as he averages 10.3 points per game and is shooting an impressive 49.6 percent from the field. Freshman forward Branden Dawson has been impressive so far as well, averaging 8.4 points and 4.5 rebounds while shooting at 55.1 percent from the field.
Michigan State plays mostly eight players and four of them play over 20 minutes a game with Green playing over 30 minutes per game. The other four average between 17-19 minutes per game.
As a team, Michigan State just shoots 33.8 percent from behind the 3-point line, but freshman Travis Trice is a player the Badgers do not want to leave open as he knocks down 3-pointers at a 43.2 percent clip so far on the season.
For the Badgers, it sounds simple, but they need to shoot the ball well. In the three losses, the Badgers have shot a woeful 34.4 percent from the field and an even more pathetic 21.9 percent from behind the 3-point line. Ben Brust will be a key to this game, as he has shot just 3-19 from behind the 3-point line in the three losses.
But for the Badgers to win the game, Jordan Taylor needs to step up and carry the team like he did so much a year ago. Taylor is averaging 12.7 points per game this year, down by over five points from last season. He does lead the Badgers in assists this year, averaging nearly five per game. It will be a big challenge for him as he goes up against Appling. The winner of this matchup will go a long way in deciding who wins this game.
The Badger big men always seem to shoot well in the Kohl Center against Michigan State, which is why I am choosing Jared Berggren as the X-factor and will help the Badgers win. Home court will help too, as the Badgers have not lost to Michigan State under Bo Ryan in Madison.
PREDICTION: Wisconsin 67, Michigan State 61