Wisconsin and Michigan State tip-off at 8:00 P.M. on Thursday night in East Lansing, Michigan on ESPN.

The two teams met on January 17, as the Badgers came out on top with a 77-76 victory thanks to a nifty Ethan Happ basket that beat the buzzer.

After that win, the Badgers have not looked back, as the team started their current seven-game winning streak. Michigan State was a top-five ranked team as of last week, until they lost to Purdue in a heartbreaker.

Of note, the Badgers haven’t won in East Lansing since March 2, 2004.

Projected Starters

Projected Wisconsin Starters

G: Bronson Koenig (13.4 PPG, 2.3 APG)
G: Zak Showalter (7.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG)
F: Nigel Hayes  (17.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.3 APG)
F: Vitto Brown (9.5 PPG, 5.1 RPG)
F: Ethan Happ (11.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG)

Projected Michigan State Starters

G: Eron Harris (9.3 PPG, 2.1 APG)
G: Bryn Forbes (14.0 PPG, 2.1 RPG)
G/F: Denzel Valentine (19.5 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 7.1 APG)
F: Deyonta Davis (7.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG)
F/C: Matt Costello (10.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG)


Going back to the first matchup, Koenig, Hayes, and Happ, scored 27, 25, and 14 points respectively. The “Big 3”, if you will, scored almost 86% of the Badgers 77 points. The Badgers can’t rely solely on this production on the road. Luckily, since then, Vitto Brown has emerged. Brown has set his career high for points in back to back games, scoring 17 against Nebraska and then scoring 21 on Saturday’s win over Maryland.

Wisconsin will need Koenig to build on his history against Michigan State, which is why Tom Izzo has dubbed him a “Spartan killer.” Koenig has averaged 22.5 points and 6.5 assists per game in the last two matchups between the two teams, and he will need to continue this excellent play come Thursday.

For Michigan State, Valentine got his during the first matchup, scoring 23 points. At this point, he has proved that there is not really anything you can do to stop him from filling the stat sheet. The senior is in the running for Big Ten Player of the Year and he rarely disappoints.

What the Badgers did well in the first meeting was slowing down Bryn Forbes, who only scored 12 points. He was held to 2-6 from the 3-point line, which was key considering he is shooting 48% from beyond the arc this season.

Despite beating the Spartans in the first matchup, I would not say a blueprint to beat the Spartans was exactly laid out. The Spartans shot better from the field, better from the three-point line, and out-rebounded than the Badgers. The biggest difference for Wisconsin is that they shot 36 free-throws compared to Michigan State’s 16. Once again, the Badgers cannot rely on shooting 20 more free-throws on the road.

The Badgers will have to try to contain Valentine (who is coming off of a 30-point,13-assist performance against Indiana), run off Forbes from the 3-point line, and stop Matt Costello (10.3 points per game, 54% from the field) from getting easy buckets around the rim.

Bottom Line

The Izzone is not an easy place to play, and you do not have to look anywhere else than the last 11 years for Wisconsin. The Badgers are hot and have done tremendously to make their case for a spot in the tourney, but the Spartans in East Lansing will be the tallest task this year. If the Badgers can have a spread out attack and slow the game down, they will have a chance on Thursday night.