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Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I'll admit that the Duke win was the statement game of the year for the Badgers. But after losing in East Lansing and West Lafayette, Wisconsin's home bout with No. 5 Michigan State is the best opportunity for a rebuttal.

Sure, the game is at home and the Badgers are slight favorites in Vegas. But this game has become a very important game annually for both teams. A Wisconsin win would give not only UW, but every other Big Ten contender a glimmer of hope. The Badgers fight on behalf of all those battling the tyranny of green 'n white and the impending apocalypse brought forth by a slightly tweaked logo.

No joke: If Wisconsin fails to hold serve tonight versus Michigan State, it will be an absolute dogfight for second place in the Big Ten. The title will be out of sight.

So who has the edge? Michigan State has an impressive stable full of athletes. But if it was all about athleticism, the Spartans would win the conference every year. We know better.

Back court: Even

The Badger trio of Trevon Hughes, Jason Bohannon and Jordan Taylor have logged heavy minutes since Jon Leuer's injury and each has struggled with his shot. It seems Michigan State, like Wisconsin, has settled into a three-guard lineup also. Reigning Big Ten Player of the Week Durrell Summers is playing too well to sit right now.

I cannot predict the individual matchups, since the thought of J-Bo guarding any of the Spartans gives me nightmares. Hughes and Taylor will probably take turns checking Kalin Lucas at some point. Bohannon can be neutralized by either Summers or Chris Allen, so I bet we see a lot of Rob Wilson. This really comes down to whether Lucas or Hughes takes control and that looks like a push in the pre-game. Hughes must bounce back.

Reserve guard Korie Lucious will be returning to his home state and has improved, but I don't think he'll be a positive factor for the Spartans. As I said earlier, Wilson will get a lot of PT if he can 'D' up and be decisive against MSU's pressure. His progress has been encouraging lately.

Front court: Advantage Michigan State

Scarier here. If Tim Jarmusz can freeze Manny Harris, he can probably hold his own against Raymar Morgan 6 or 7 times out of 10. What worries you is the other 30% of the time when Morgan is really clicking. The funny thing is the similarity between Morgan and Keaton Nankivil in that respect. Nankivil likely goes up against sophomore Delvon Roe to start, switching to whatever big guy is first off the Spartan bench. I hope Nankivil has been practicing his shot fakes inside.

Minus Leuer, Michigan State's advantage here is magnified because of 6th man du jour Draymond Green. Green has been fantastic for MSU and even leads the team in steals. Ryan Evans can physically match up with Roe off the bench, but I think Mike Bruesewitz could thrive in this type of physical game. Either way, I don't think Jared Berggren's footwork is quick enough for an appearance barring foul trouble.

Coaching: Even

Ha, not even going there. I'd love for Bo to continue his Kohl Center dominance (6-0) against Tom Izzo and I think it's within reach. The Badgers just need to shoot well. However, the matchups are not delicious and a poor outside shooting night will lead to dozens of Michigan State rebounds. The Spartans will be a big enough challenge on the offensive glass.

I will stay above the Bo-Izzo "feud" (mostly because I couldn't find any video of Izzo crying), but I did appreciate Ron Burgundy questioning Izzo's dwarf status at the end of this video.

Intangibles: Advantage Wisconsin

Bucky has the home court, which outweighs the "Michigan State is on a roll factor." The Spartans don't quite have the superlative depth that I thought they did either. Izzo plays seven guys between 20 and 30 mpg and everyone else less than 8 mpg. The Spartans technically go 9-deep with a couple of big freshmen providing rest and extra fouls, but not much more than that. Wisconsin has been going about 8-deep if you count Bruesewitz, with a wider disparity in minutes from top to bottom.

If anything, I tend to underrate the value of the Badgers guards' experience, which is why I rated the back courts equally. So that brings us back to even after four categories. I fully expect this one to come down to the wire.

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