Key Questions for Michigan State at Wisconsin

Posted by Alex Moscoso and Brendan Brody on February 9th, 2014

Michigan State‘s visit to Wisconsin today might have been a possible match-up of the top two Big Ten teams a few weeks ago. Now, it’s a tale of two different teams. While the Spartans sit atop the league standings, the Badgers has lost five of their last seven and are hoping to avoid dipping below .500 in the conference. Big Ten microsite writers Alex Moscoso and Brendan Brody ask each other questions about this match-up in order to preview what may happen when they take the court.

Sam Dekker and the Badgers have need a big win against Michigan State to stop the bleeding. (Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports)

Sam Dekker and the Badgers need a big win to stop the bleeding. (Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports)

AM: The Spartan’s offense stalled against Georgetown without Adreian Payne and Brandon Dawsen. On Sunday, Dawsen will be out, but Payne will be back in. Will the return of Payne be enough to get this offense back on track and put numbers up against the Badgers?

BB: It’s gotten to the point now where we really don’t know what roster the Spartans will have on a game-by-game basis. Just when they get Payne back, they decide to sit Keith Appling on Thursday night because of his nagging wrist injury. Even without their floor general, they still shot 12-23 from behind the arc against Penn State. Regardless of whether or not Appling plays Sunday, there’s no indication that Sparty won’t put points on the board against Wisconsin. The three-point shooting won’t be there like that every game obviously, but Payne and Matt Costello will be able to get plenty of points in the paint against a Badger unit that struggles to guard inside. In their last seven games, Wisconsin has allowed 51.5 % shooting on two-pointers. Payne will get more comfortable in his second game back, and Appling or Travis Trice should be able to get in the lane like a lot of point guards have been able to do recently against the Badgers.

BB: In fact, Wisconsin’s defense has been a major reason for their recent slide. What do the Badgers have to do on Sunday to stop the Spartans’ offense?

AM: Wisconsin’s defense hasn’t been the only reason for their slide, but I agree  it has been lacking against opponents who can really score. Against Indiana, Michigan, and Minnesota, the Badgers have allowed their opponents to shoot over 53 percent and average over 1.1 points per possession. Last weekend, they allowed Ohio State to kill them from the three-point line (5 of 9 3Ps). Perimeter defense used to be an area of strength for Bo Ryan’s team, not so much these days. However, the Badgers may have caught a break with Appling’s injury if he is out on Sunday because Appling has been the steady hand that runs the offense all season. While their offense looked good against Penn State, Wisconsin may exert some form of pressure on the ball handler and in the hope of creating turnovers. Appling’s absence would also allow Wisconsin’s D to concentrate more on Gary Harris, the conference’s leading scorer. This may be enough to slow down the Spartans’ perimeter offense.

AM: Speaking of defense, the loss of Brandon Dawsen, the Spartan’s best defender, leaves a huge opening for Sam Dekker to have a big game. How does Tom Izzo get his team to stop Dekker without Dawsen and who guards him?

BB: Dekker hit 4-for-7 from deep in his last game against Illinois, but he struggled before that. My guess would be that Kenny Kaminski would get the first crack at guarding him if Michigan State goes with the same starting five from Thursday night. This is not a good match-up however, as Kaminski – for all of the good things he does offensively – has not shown he has the lateral quickness to guard someone like Dekker. The Spartans might have to go small to match up with Wisconsin’s three guard lineup. If they do, I would say that Denzel Valentine could do an effective job slowing Dekker down. He is two inches shorter than the 6’7″ forward, but he has the athleticism and girth to keep him off the glass. Whoever gets the task of guarding Wisconsin’s leading scorer, the smart play would be to stay back and force him to shoot outside. Until Dekker proves he’s hitting shots consistently, I’d be more than okay with him launching 20-footers instead of driving by me for dunks and layups.

BB: Another issue for Wisconsin has been their offensive rebounding which currently ranks 249th in ORB% (29%). Tom Izzo’s Spartans are always adept rebounders who will also be getting Adreian Payne back in the lineup. What can the Badgers do on the offensive side to minimize this weakness?

AM: Unless Bo Ryan has an Adreian Payne voodoo doll nearby, there isn’t much hope that Wisconsin will be able to out-rebound Michigan State. They are going to have to minimize the defensive rebounding opportunities for Michigan State either by making shots, something they have not been very good at lately, or shooting from the perimeter. With the loss of Brandon Dawsen (8.7 RPG), they lose a huge rebounding presence outside the block. If the Badgers are able to establish themselves from the perimeter, they can grab some of their misses which would be those long rebounds that Dawson would have normally eaten up. This seems to be their best strategy to minimize the Spartans rebounding advantage.

Alex Moscoso (71 Posts)


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