After their tough road loss Saturday, the Badgers (13-5, 4-1 B1G) return back to the Kohl Center Tuesday night to take on the #13 ranked Spartans of Michigan State (16-3, 5-1 B1G). The two teams are currently first (MSU) and second (Wisconsin) in the B1G respectively, and the winner will either retain or gain that title. The game can be seen on ESPN with tip off at 6:00 PM CT.
Instead of our normal preview format, today we'd like to give our readers an inside look at Tuesday's opponent. We sat down with MSU student and "Izzone" member Will Nahikian. Will covers all things Michigan State over at our fellow Bloguin site The B1G Time.
Madtown Badgers:The Spartans are currently on a 5-game win streak that has them sitting alone at the top of the Big Ten. They're coming off a huge 59-56 win over #11 Ohio State on Saturday. What's the feeling like around East Lansing? Do MSU fans feel this team is capable of winning the Big Ten and making a deep tournament run?
Will Nahikian: East Lansing was bumping following the 59-56 victory on Saturday night, but there are some worries that surround this team. Tom Izzo teams have been known to have great depth, though this team does not and it has people worried. We lost Brandan Kearney who transferred to Arizona State and we missed out on an awesome recruit for 2013 in Jabari Parker. I think MSU fans believe that winning the B1G and making a deep tournament run is possible, but because of the lack of depth some players will get a lot of minutes.
Madtown Badgers:With Draymond Green graduating last spring, who has stepped up as the leader of this years' Spartan squad both in the huddle and on the court?
Will: You cannot replace a Draymond Green. You just can’t do it. I got to know him while here at MSU and he is an even nicer person than you would imagine. We came into the year with two captains: Russell Byrd and Derrick Nix, but Byrd hasn’t played much and Nix is not very vocal. In steps Keith Appling who was named a captain just this weekend. It has been an unbelievable transformation for him; he came in a scoring guard and has truly made the transition to point. Not only has he made that transition, he has also become much more vocal and has really become a leader for this team.
....much more after the jump!
Madtown Badgers:We all read about the altercation between MSU starters Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne on Wednesday at the team hotel. How do you think that distraction has affected the team on the court? Have you noticed anything unordinary between the two during games?
Will: I do not think it has distracted the team at all; they seemed a bit embarrassed by the whole situation and have seemed to play harder because of it. Adreian Payne has been a MONSTER following the fight; he only played 17 minutes at Penn State but scored 17 and grabbed 7 rebounds after sitting the first half. Dawson on the other hand was doing much better before the fight, but I do not think that the fight had much to do with it. These two are actually roommates, so they see each other a ton even while outside of basketball. People get annoyed and tempers can spark, but you cannot let such a thing happen in public. I have noticed that Payne seems to try a little too much to be “cool” or “friendly” with Dawson on the court, but I wouldn’t look too much into it.
Madtown Badgers: Like all good Tom Izzo teams, MSU has really locked up the boards this year, as they're 39th in the nation in rebounds per game. Wisconsin has also done fairly well securing the glass. Do you see the rebounding battle as crucial to this game's outcome?
Will: In every B1G game the rebounding margin is important. Rebounds create more opportunities and the B1G coaches know this. Tom Izzo has moved to a bigger line-up, which should help Michigan State rebound the ball. He has been playing: Dawson, Payne and Nix together and having our three best rebounders on the court has been great lift for this team. I think whoever wins the rebounding battle has a pretty good chance at winning this game.
Madtown Badgers: Michigan State has been a very good defensive team this season, but is there one matchup Wisconsin presents that really concerns you coming into Tuesday's game?
Will: To me, this Wisconsin team does not have one star, but many good players. You guys have Berggren, Evans, Brust, Dekker and Bruesewitz almost all averaging 10 points per game. Though the Michigan State defense has been good and even great at times, we have had one huge problem. That problem being that we have been giving out career highs in scoring like it is our job. I can almost guarantee one Wisconsin player will score a career high, but it has seemed to average out. We let one player score a ton, while basically shutting down the others. If Wisconsin can get some good scoring from more than one player they will have a good shot at winning this game. But if I had to pick one player I would go with: Bruesewitz, he always seems to have a good game against us.
Madtown Badgers: Who do you think wins Tuesday's game and why?
Will: I would’ve been a lot more confident picking Michigan State to win if you guys had not lost to Iowa on the road. Now you’ll be coming off of a loss and at home. This game will probably end up being extremely ugly and low scoring. I think Michigan State wins one of their next two road games: @Wisconsin and @Indiana. With that being said I will go out on a limb and predict the Spartans to win a close one: 61-57. I think it will come down to: Who can shoot the ball better, and I think the Spartans will knock down a few more shots.