MADISON, WI - JANUARY 08: Tracy Abrams #13 of the Illinois Fighting Illini pulls up for a two pointer during the first half against the Wisconsin Badgers at Kohl Center on January 08, 2014 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Badgers Basketball Preview: Michigan State edition

The Matchup: Michigan State (19-9, 10-5 B1G) at No. 4 Wisconsin (25-3, 13-2 B1G)
When: Sunday, March 1st; 3pm CT
Where: Madison, WI; Kohl Center (17,279)
Radio: Badgers Sports Network
Last Meeting: L, 75-83 at Banker’s Life FH (3/15/14)
All-Time Series: MSU leads, 75-61


Projected Starting Lineups:

Michigan State

G Tum Tum Nairn - Fr. 5-10, 170 (2.4 ppg, 2.8 apg)
G Bryn Forbes - Jr. 6-3, 180 (8.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg)
F Denzel Valentine - Jr. 6-5, 220 (14.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg)
F Branden Dawson - Sr. 6-6, 225 (12.3 ppg, 9.9 rpg)
F Gavin Schilling - So.  6-9, 240 (5.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg)


G Bronson Koenig – So. 6-4, 190 (7.7 ppg, 2.3 apg)
G Josh Gasser – Sr. 6-4, 192 (7.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg)
F Sam Dekker – Jr. 6-9, 230 (13.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
F Nigel Hayes – So. 6-8, 235 (12.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg)
C Frank Kaminsky – Sr. 7-0, 242 (17.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg)


Key Matchup: Wisconsin’s backcourt vs. Michigan State’s backcourt

There’s no doubt that the Michigan State lineup is in some major flux. I mean, this guy nicknamed “Tum Tum” has started the last five games while a name like Travis Trice has been on the bench. It all adds up to a simple equation on Senior Day for the Wisconsin Badgers — win the backcourt battle and win the game.

It may seem strange considering the Badgers’ advantage up front as well, but the reality is UW has the experience and the production advantage in the backcourt as well. The mystery will be Traevon Jackson, who has declared he will start (despite not being cleared for practice on Friday). If he starts and plays extensive minutes this game could be very different.

Expect to see Bronson Koenig starting, and with a Kohl Center backdrop expect the rest of the starting lineup and him to do plenty to win this game. Between Koenig and Gasser the Badgers have plenty enough to offer on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor to win this game.

3 Important Numbers:

- 7: The Badgers and Spartans’ last three matchups at the Kohl Center have been decided by a total of seven points. It’s just too bad this senior class is 2-7 against the Spartans overall.

- 14-12: As much as recent results haven’t been fun, Wisconsin’s record of 14-12 against Michigan State is the only winning record amongst Big Ten teams against the Spartans since Bo Ryan came to the campus in Madison.

- +8.0: Michigan State leads the Big Ten with a +8.0 rebounding margin. That’s well and good, but the Badgers aren’t about to back down considering a big time advantage up front. Look for rebounding to be a big key on Sunday afternoon.

Prediction: Wisconsin 68, Michigan State 58

While the Spartans have basically owned the Badgers over the last five years, the reality is the tables have turned. UW is at the top of the Big Ten and MSU is looking to gain the top spot. It won’t happen on Sunday, as the Badgers have the better of the talent and the better of the production overall.

The fact that Michigan State has been tinkering with its lineup over the last two week should speak plenty to the struggles MSU has had as of late. While things have worked out decently for the Spartans, expect Sunday’s Senior Day to mean a lot to the likes of Frank Kaminsky and Josh Gasser. It also means expect a lot from that duo and more in this one.

Simply put, Michigan State has no answer for the game that Kaminsky brings to the table, and that will be the reason the Badgers clinch a Big Ten title.

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, as well as Publisher of Big Ten site