Both No. 16 Wisconsin and Michigan State enter Sunday’s contest with a lot to gain.
The Badgers (22-6, 11-4 Big Ten) have lost three of their last four games and now sit one-half game behind Purdue in the conference standings. A road win would put them back in the top spot alongside the Boilermakers and in position to contend for a Big Ten title entering the final week of regular season play.
Michigan State (17-11, 9-6) sits in fifth place in league play, one-half game behind Minnesota. Tom Izzo’s team holds the tiebreaker over the Golden Gophers, and finishing fourth or better would give the Spartans a double bye in the Big Ten Tournament. How can they ensure that happens? Just keep winning, starting Sunday.
Senior Day should bring a lot of emotion to the Breslin Center, but once the ball is tipped, Michigan State will continue to rely heavily on its freshmen to try to keep Wisconsin’s misery going.
Tomorrow we honor our seniors, Alvin Ellis III, Eron Harris & Matt Van Dyk after the Spartans take on Wisconsin. Tipoff is at 4 p.m. on CBS. pic.twitter.com/8MweIEIRy4
— Spartan Basketball (@MSU_Basketball) February 25, 2017
Wisconsin basketball vs. Michigan State game time, details
Time: 4 p.m. ET
Date: Sunday, Feb. 26
Location: Breslin Center, East Lansing, Mich.
Which TV channel broadcasts Wisconsin basketball vs. Michigan State?
The game will be broadcast on CBS.
How can I watch Wisconsin basketball vs. Michigan State online?
CBS will live stream the game at CBSSports.com, as well as on the CBS Sports app.
How can I listen to Wisconsin basketball vs. Michigan State on the radio?
For Michigan State, the game can be heard on radio over the 38-affiliate Spartan Sports Network, including flagship stations WMMQ-FM (94.9)/WJIM-AM (1240) in Lansing and WJR-AM (760) in Detroit. It is also on Sirius/XM 84.
Who is calling the Wisconsin basketball vs. Michigan State game?
Kevin Harlan will handle play-by-play for CBS, with Dan Bonner providing analysis. Will Tieman handles play-by-play, with analysts Matt Steigenga and Gus Ganakas on the Spartan Sports Network.
Wisconsin basketball vs. Michigan State keys
Wisconsin basketball keys to the game
1. Own the paint
If there’s a common thread between Wisconsin’s three losses in its last four games, it’s a weak performance from Nigel Hayes. The senior averaged just 8.7 points on 41.7 percent shooting between the three games, going silent for long stretches at a time. With Ethan Happ getting routinely double-teamed nowadays, the Badgers just haven’t figured out a way to use Hayes to compensate, and that has significantly cost them.
Now facing a Michigan State defense that ranks in the top 50 in the country in block rate per KenPom, Wisconsin’s duo down low will need to figure some things out if they want to factor into a Badgers win.
2. Crash the glass
Wisconsin got beaten in nearly every phase of the game Thursday against Ohio State, but the most egregious problem was the Big Ten’s leader in rebounding margin getting outrebounded 38-25 by a team that’s not supposed to be great at rebounding. The Badgers got beaten so thoroughly, their average rebounding margin fell from 8.4 to 7.6, now third in the conference.
Things were bad enough that Ohio State guard Jae’Sean Tate almost outrebounded the entire Wisconsin team in the first half, “losing” 12-10. Michigan State is a superior rebounding team, so a similar performance on the boards would make a Wisconsin win quite unlikely.
Michigan State basketball keys to the game
1. Create second chances
Wisconsin kills efficiency from opposing offenses by shutting down the 3-point line and the paint in an attempt to force teams to shoot a high proportion of mid-range jumpers. That strategy, along with a trademark slow pace, has the Badgers seventh in the nation in scoring defense at 61.3 points per game.
Michigan State shoots a strong 47.6 percent from the field, but that number likely will drop against the Badgers, so the Spartans’ paltry 27.9 offensive rebounding percentage won’t cut it. They stand at 11-3 when they grab at least nine offensive rebounds and 6-8 when they don’t. Miles Bridges and Josh Langford need to crash the boards whenever a shot goes up.
2. Contain Happ
Much, much easier said than done. Wisconsin’s star big man leads his team in points (14.4), rebounds (8.9), steals (2.1) and blocks (1.1), and he’s tied for the lead in assists (2.9). Fortunately for Michigan State, the past few games have provided a clear indication of how to do that. When faced with double-teams, Happ has turned the ball over frequently and struggled to find open teammates.
Freshman Nick Ward will have a tough time dealing with Happ’s mobility, while 6-foot-7 sophomore Kenny Goins doesn’t match up well with Happ’s length. The Spartans will have to rely on help defense to contain him while making sure to sprint and find shooters once he gets rid of the ball.