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Wisconsin vs. Michigan State: how to watch, game preview and open thread [UPDATE: Tyler Wahl OUT]

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The Badgers return home for a MASSIVE top-15 matchup with Tom Izzo and the Spartans.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 25 Wisconsin at Michigan State

In a rare Friday night game, the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers (15-2 overall, 6-1 Big Ten) welcome the No. 14 Michigan State Spartans (14-3 overall, 5-1 Big Ten) to the Kohl Center for a top of the conference clash. UW is on a seven-game winning streak heading into the contest while the Spartans just had their nine-game winning streak snapped by losing to Northwestern at home.

The game is officially a sell-out and the winner will remain in a first place tie with Illinois heading into the weekend.

A hallmark of Tom Izzo’s teams at MSU is a tough non-conference schedule, and this year was no different for the Spartans. Michigan State lost their opening game of the season to Kansas in the Champions Classic and they’ve also fallen to Baylor and the aforementioned Northwestern loss. In terms of big wins, the Spartans have taken down UConn and Loyola Chicago and they’ve also beaten Northwestern in Evanston.

MSU’s defense has been stout this year, blocking a lot of shots and holding opponents to 29.1% three point shooting, which is No. 24 in the nation. On offense, they are the ninth best three point shooting team in the country and they assist on nearly 64% of their made baskets. Seven-footer Marcus Bingham is a top-notch rim defender and hopefully he’ll be made to play on the perimeter some by Steven Crowl so Johnny Davis and co. can attack the basket.

The Spartans have a pretty balanced rotation with seven players getting over 40% of the available minutes and two others getting over 30%. While most of their shooters don’t have enough volume to qualify for the national leader boards, Malik Hall (55.9%, 34 attempts) and Tyson Walker (57.1%, 28 attempts) are especially lethal from beyond the arc. Senior, and leading scorer, Gabe Brown will also bomb away from deep and is an outstanding free throw shooter.

Other players to watch out for include star freshman wing Max Christie (who the Badgers recruited) and former Marquette big man, and native of Stevens Point, Joey Hauser. MSU is the ninth tallest team in the country and will present some matchup problems for Wisconsin. Chris Vogt, Ben Carlson and Carter Gilmore may play more than usual to try and combat the height advantage that MSU brings to the table.

The Badgers rarely turn the ball over, and Michigan State isn’t too keen on trying to force a bunch of turnovers, so Chucky Hepburn and Brad Davison are going to have to be deliberate when running the offense to try and get Wisconsin some good looks. If UW keeps the pace a bit slower they could take home a W, but playing against MSU is always a challenge.

How to watch/listen

TV: FS1, 8:00 p.m. CT, Kevin Kugler, Stephen Bardo

Streaming: FOX Sports App; FOX Sports

Radio/Satellite: WIBA 1310 AM, Sirius/XM 195; Matt Lepay, Mike Lucas

Live stats: Here!

Arena: Kohl Center, Madison, Wis.

DraftKings Line: Wisconsin -4.5
(Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.)

KenPom Wisconsin win percentage: 61%
Torvik Wisconsin win percentage: 63%

Fun facts (according to the media guides)

  • The Badgers have won seven straight and 13 of their last 14 heading into Friday night’s tilt with Michigan State.
  • Wisconsin has the most Quad 1 and 2 wins (10) in the country and the second most Quad 1 (five, behind Baylor) wins. Their 10 wins over KenPom top-100 teams is best in the nation.
  • The Badgers are 9-1 in games decided by six or fewer points.
  • Friday’s game will mark meeting No. 150 between Wisconsin and Michigan State, with the series dating back to 1922.
  • MSU leads the all-time series, 83-66, but since the arrival of Bo Ryan and Greg Gard in the 2001-02 season MSU only has a 20-19 advantage in the series.
  • Wisconsin is 47-26 all-time against the Spartans in Madison. That includes a record of 13-7 at the Kohl Center.
  • Last season’s win on Christmas Day marked the Badgers first win at the Breslin Center since 2004, snapping a streak of 12 straight road losses in the series. The Badgers have won two in a row over the Spartans.
  • Friday will mark the 13th time in the last 27 meetings featuring both teams in the AP Top-25.
  • Wisconsin has one Michigan native on their roster, freshman PG Lorne Bowman (Detroit). The Spartans have one Wisconsin native on their roster, senior forward Joey Hauser (Stevens Point).
  • Wisconsin is averaging 72.6 ppg, which would be the team’s highest mark since 2013-14.
  • Johnny Davis is the only Big Ten player to lead his team in ppg (22.1), rpg (7.5) and apg (2.6).
  • Brad Davison is having the best year of his career, ranking No. 16 in the Big Ten scoring 15.1 ppg. He is also third in the conference shooting 86.3% at the FT line and sixth with a career-best 2.4 triples per game.
  • Junior Tyler Wahl is averaging 15.3 ppg and 6.6 rpg during UW’s seven-game win streak.
  • Sophomore Steven Crowl has made a big jump, averaging 8.8 ppg and 4.8 rpg. He posted just eight points and nine boards total last season as a freshman.
  • UW ranks No. 2 in the Big Ten shooting 75.2% at the FT line and has made more FTs (258) than its foes have attempted.
  • Wisconsin leads the NCAA in fewest turnovers per game (8.4).
  • The Spartans have been led this year by a stingy defense, which ranks among the leaders in the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense (No. 2, 39.1%), 3-point field goal percentage defense (No. 2, 29.1%), rebounding margin (No. 3, +7.4 rpg) and blocked shots (No. 1, 6.5 bpg).
  • One of the keys for Michigan State’s success this season has been the play of its bench, which is averaging 26.1 points, 17.1 rebounds and 6.6 assists while shooting 50.0 percent from the floor.
  • Gabe Brown leads the team with 14.2 ppg and is averaging 14.5 in Big Ten games, which ranks No. 14 in the league.
  • Freshman guard Max Christie is second on the team with 10.4 points and has been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week five times already this season.

Potential Starters

Wisconsin

  • Johnny Davis, 6-foot-5, sophomore, guard, No. 1
  • Tyler Wahl, 6-foot-9, junior, forward, No. 5 Ben Carlson, 6-foot-9, sophomore, forward, No. 20
  • Steven Crowl, 7-foot, sophomore, forward, No. 22
  • Chucky Hepburn, 6-foot-2, freshman, guard, No. 23
  • Brad Davison, 6-foot-4, super senior, guard, No. 34

Michigan State

  • Tyson Walker, 6-foot, junior, guard, No. 2
  • Max Christie, 6-foot-6, freshman, guard, No. 5
  • Joey Hauser, 6-foot-9, redshirt senior, forward, No. 10
  • Marcus Bingham, Jr., 7-foot, senior, forward, No. 30
  • Gabe Brown, 6-foot-8, senior, forward, No. 44