After a 79-69 loss to the Illinois Fighting Illini last Saturday, the Wisconsin Badgers dropped to No. 18 in the AP Poll and will look to rebound in a conference matchup against the Michigan State Spartans on Tuesday evening.
Following the loss, the Badgers are 3-1 in conference play, with wins over then-No. 13 Maryland, Iowa, and Minnesota, and will now face a Michigan State team that has enjoyed a strong start to the season with an 11-4 record.
Here’s what you need to know about the Badgers’ opponent on Tuesday.
The Michigan State Spartans come into the matchup sitting at 11-4, while going 3-1 in conference play with wins over Nebraska, Penn State, and Michigan thus far.
Michigan State has an impressive win over then-No. 2 Kentucky, and has showcased the propensity of winning both high-scoring and low-scoring games.
The Spartans are led by guard Tyson Walker and forward Joey Hauser, who have scored 13.9 and 13.3 points per game respectively, with both players shooting the deep ball at a high rate.
Overall, Michigan State shoots the ball fairly well, connecting on 37.1% of their three-pointers, but doesn’t attempt many deep shots, with 33% of their overall volume coming from beyond the arc.
Player to Watch
While Michigan State is spearheaded by Walker and Hauser, the player to watch is senior forward Malik Hall, who recently returned from injury.
After playing significant minutes early in the season, Hall has slowly ramped up in his return, going from 12 to 18 to 23 minutes in his first three games back in action.
Prior to his injury, Hall had three double-digit performances in four games, including an efficient 20-point game in the Spartans’ win over Kentucky.
Hall is shooting incredibly efficiently to begin the season, hitting over 54% of his field goals, while connecting on 41% of his three-pointers, and is bound for a breakout game as his minutes increase.
What to Watch for Wisconsin
The Badgers enter the game as the favorite, but could be without key forward Tyler Wahl, who missed this weekend’s game against Illinois after exiting Wisconsin’s win over Minnesota with an ankle injury.
The big men: Without Wahl, Wisconsin had to rely on forwards Carter Gilmore and Markus Illver, with the former playing a season-high 30 minutes and the latter playing a season-high 19 minutes in the loss.
Steven Crowl continued to remain hot with 20 points on 50% shooting, but struggled beyond the arc, connecting on just 1/7 of his three-point attempts.
Wahl’s absence forces an added focus toward the forwards and takes away from some minutes for Wisconsin’s guards, which is where the depth is, while also playing lineups that don’t feature as much shot creation.
Three-point defense: The Badgers were torched from beyond the arc against Illinois, as the Fighting Illini shot 52.6% from three, which propelled the strong second-half performance that kept the game out of hand.
Meanwhile, Michigan State comes into the game shooting 37.1% from three, with three of their top four scorers all eclipsing that mark from beyond the arc.
If Wisconsin cannot close out and defend well from the perimeter as they have for most of the season, they could face serious trouble against a tough conference opponent, especially without Tyler Wahl.