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Lansing State Journal columnist Graham Couch previews Michigan State basketball's game against Wisconsin on Friday in Madison, Wisconsin:
• What: Michigan State at Wisconsin
• When: 9 p.m. Friday
• Where: Kohl Center, Madison, Wisconsin
• TV/Radio: FS1/Spartan Sports Network radio, including WJIM 1240-AM and WMMQ 94.9-FM; Sirius/XM Ch. 84 (MSU broadcast)
• Records/Rankings: MSU is 14-3 overall and 5-1 in the Big Ten, ranked No. 14 in the Associated Press poll and No. 13 in the USA Today Coaches poll. Wisconsin is 15-2 overall and 6-1 in the Big Ten and ranked No. 8 in both major polls.
Coaches: MSU — Tom Izzo is 657-257 in his 27th season as a head coach, all with the Spartans. Wisconsin — Greg Gard is 134-72 in his seventh season as a head coach, all with the Badgers.
Series: MSU leads 83-65 all-time, losing the most recent meeting on Christmas Day 2020 at an empty Breslin Center.
• Projected betting line: Wisconsin -3 (via oddsmaker Trevor Darnell)
C (30) Marcus Bingham Jr. (7-0) 9.7
PF (10) Joey Hauser (6-9) 6.8
SF (44) Gabe Brown (6-8) 14.2
SG (5) Max Christie (6-6) 10.4
PG (2) Tyson Walker (6-0) 6.8
C (22) Steven Crowl (7-0) 8.8
PF (5) Tyler Wahl (6-9) 11.0
SF (1) Johnny Davis (6-5) 22.1
SG (34) Brad Davison (6-4) 15.1
PG (23) Chucky Hepburn (6-2) 7.2
Michigan State update
There are suddenly some doubts about how good this Spartans team really is and can be. A home loss to Northwestern that followed a shaky home win over Minnesota will do that. So will being out-rebounded twice by Northwestern in two weeks. The concern for MSU mostly surrounds two players — center Marcus Bingham Jr. and point guard Tyson Walker — both of whom enjoyed ascending play through Christmas. Bingham has tallied a combined 12 points and eight rebounds in the last three games, while seeing his playing time decrease from 19 minutes to 17 and then 12 last Saturday against Northwestern. He didn’t play the final 10 minutes the game before that against Minnesota, either. Tom Izzo wants a better motor up and down the court and on the glass from his 7-footer. Walker took himself out of the Minnesota game and then had a decent day against Northwestern, but seems to be lacking some of his December swagger.
GETTING THE POINT: MSU's point guard losing some leeway in effort to cut down turnovers
The Badgers are in good form right now, having won seven straight, including Big Ten wins at Northwestern, over Ohio State, at Maryland, against Iowa and at Purdue. It’s been an impressive stretch, led by sophomore Johnny Davis and fifth-year senior Brad Davison. While MSU has issues with turnovers, the Badgers take care of the ball as well as anyone in college basketball, averaging a Big Ten-low 8.4 per game and 12.4 per 100 possessions, which is second best in the country. Davis has cooled off from his torrid early pace but is still averaging 22.1 points per game, second most in the conference. His 7.5 rebounds are also in the top 10 in the Big Ten.
Inside the matchup
I like this Wisconsin team a lot — much more than last season’s squad. Davis gives the Badgers some real oomph and is an extreme matchup problem for opponents. He’ll be Max Christie’s assignment, I'm guessing. Gabe Brown some, too. He’s a chore to defend. Davidson is also playing the best basketball of his career. MSU absolutely has to win the point guard matchup, with Walker and A.J. Hoggard against Wisconsin freshman Chucky Hepburn, who’s brought some occasional pace to that position for the Badgers. That's probably MSU's best shot at an advantage. But the Spartans need the best version of Walker. I don’t think the Badgers will hurt the Spartans inside, but they’ve got some length and depth in there. They’re not a great rebounding club. This is another game that’ll be telling of the Spartans' grit on the glass.
Pound for pound, MSU isn’t going to be overwhelmed by Wisconsin. But there’s no question which team is playing better basketball and with more purpose right now. Not to mention, the one clear individual matchup edge belongs to the Badgers with Davis against anyone. MSU has shown steely nerves on the road this season. It hasn’t played a team of this quality in this sort of venue, however. The pick: Wisconsin 75, MSU 68.
Contact Graham Couch at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Graham_Couch.
This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: Michigan State basketball vs. Wisconsin: Scouting report, pick