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Wisconsin vs. Michigan State preview: Key matchups, x-factors and prediction

The Badgers play host to the Spartans, trying to rebound after a tough loss on the road at the hands of the Terrapins.

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin Badgers (25-3, 13-2 Big Ten) return home after a heartbreaking loss against the Maryland Terrapins that snapped their 11-game winning streak. The team shot a horrendous 27.3% from behind the arc, and allowed Dez Wells to score 26 and Melo Trimble to cash in for 16. Frank Kaminsky was not able to get a three to fall his way but still left College Park with 18 points, eight rebounds, and two assists.

The Michigan State Spartans (19-9, 10-5 Big Ten) left the Breslin Center on Thursday night with a stunning 96-90 overtime loss at the hands of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Spartans had a comfortable lead with minimal time left when Minnesota made a late comeback tying the ballgame on a Carlos Morris three point shot with three seconds left. The Gophers carried the momentum through the five extra minutes to rally for the road victory. Denzel Valentine still had a nice performance for Tom Izzo's club, scoring 27 points to go with seven rebounds and dishing out two assists.

The Spartans rely mainly upon the production of Valentine, Branden Dawson and Travis Trice. Dawson and Valentine are dangerous slashers while Trice can really hurt the opposition with his work from behind the arc and his solid distribution of the ball.

Key Matchups to Watch

Branden Dawson vs. Nigel Hayes

This is going to be an interesting test for Hayes, as Dawson brings a lot of versatility to both sides of the ball and is an absolute bruiser on the glass. Hayes will have to be on his game completely to outmuscle the powerful Dawson, and even then it will be a struggle to grab each rebound. One tactic that Ryan and Hayes should both be aware of and should use is tiring Dawson while on offense. This means continually taking him to the lane or making him run around the floor defending the perimeter shot. Either way, slowing down Dawson and tiring him out will be a huge factor in the outcome of today's conference match.

Bo Ryan vs. Tom Izzo

Does this count? These two legendary coaches will meet up once again today and I just can't wait to see how they game plan for each other's respective squads. In my opinion and in the opinion of most, these are the two best coaches in the Big Ten and two of the 10 best currently roaming the sidelines in the country. Watching them both hassle the refs and organize perfect plays is sports eye candy and it will be a joy to watch this afternoon.


Bronson Koenig's Defense

Koenig cannot let Travis Trice get hot from behind the three point line this afternoon. Trice is one of the Big Ten's deadliest shooters once he gets going from downtown, and can hurt you if you give him that extra inch of space. Trice will be the Spartan's best shot from behind the arc, and don't think Coach Izzo is going to hold back the senior guard. He averages 14.1 points per game and also is a magnificent distributor, evident by his 5.6 dimes per game.

Spartans' frontcourt defense

Whether the Spartans plan to start Matt Costello or Gavin Schilling against Wooden Award candidate Frank Kaminsky, the player needs to play aggressive and stingy defense. This is huge for Michigan State's chances in this game, as Kaminsky went 0-for-2 from behind the arc and Maryland prevailed. If Schilling and Costello can close out effectively and limit Kaminsky's easy layups at the rim, the Spartans will have a better chance to win.

Final Thought and Prediction

It is Senior Day in Madison and the Badgers currently start the best senior in the country in Frank the Tank, as well as one of the best senior defenders in Josh Gasser. Combine that with the offensive versatility of Sam Dekker, Koenig distributing and controlling tempo, and the contributions Nigel Hayes makes on both sides of the ball, and it's hard to beat Wisconsin anywhere, especially at home. The Spartans do not have the frontcourt to stop the likes of Kaminsky and Hayes from behind the arc and in the paint. Wisconsin will roll to a victory on Senior Day.

Final score: Badgers 70, Spartans 61