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Wisconsin basketball: Michigan State Spartans 2019-20 preview

The preseason best team in the country will play the Badgers twice. Can Wisconsin pull off an upset?

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State

Nickname: Spartans

Conference: Big Ten

Location: East Lansing, Michigan


Head coach: Tom Izzo, 24 years at Michigan State

2018-19 record: 32-7 (16-4, B1G)

Last time in NCAA Tournament: 2019, loss to Texas Tech in Final Four

Top three returning scorers: Cassius Winston, senior, guard, 18.8 ppg; Joshua Langford, senior, guard, 15.0 ppg; Xavier Tillman, junior, forward, 10.0 ppg

NCAA Basketball: Oakland at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Key loss: Nick Ward, center, 12.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg, nicknamed Big Puddin’ which is just an amazing thing to be called

Exciting newcomer: Mark “Rocket” Watts Jr., true freshman from Detroit, played high school ball at SPIRE Academy (with LaMelo Ball) in Ohio, 247 Composite high 4-star player ranked No. 39 in the country, a bit undersized but puts the ball in the bucket with alarming alacrity

Date of game 1: Friday, Jan. 17, 6 p.m. FS1
Location: Breslin Center, East Lansing, Michigan

Date of game 2: Saturday, Feb. 1, 12 p.m. FOX
Location: Kohl Center, Madison, Wisconsin

Preview: Michigan State is always good. They make the Final Four roughly once every four years, produce NBA level talent regularly and have a Hall of Fame coach. This year, the expectations for the Spartans are even higher than normal. They are the preseason No. 1 team, in both the conference and the country, and have the favorite to be named National Player of the Year on their roster as well.

The Spartans are deep and talented and depending on the outcome of their waiver request to get Marquette transfer Joey Hauser immediately eligible, don’t have any holes. Winston is a stud. Tillman is a load to handle in the post. Langford and Aaron Henry are wings that every team in the B1G envies. Rocket Watts should step right into the guard rotation and provide instant offense off the bench.

MSU has their typical early season hell schedule that features Duke, Kentucky and whoever they end up playing in the Maui Invitational after their game against Virginia Tech (featuring Kansas, UCLA, Dayton, BYU and Georgia). This year has all the ingredients for another Final Four run and this time they’ll hope to play one more game.

Prediction: The Badgers won’t get blown out at home, and hopefully not on the road, but the Spartans are just too good and should sweep the season series.