Tuesday Preview: #11 Michigan State at #19 Wisconsin

January 3rd, 2012
Arguably the quickest way for a team to eliminate itself from a conference title race is to drop games at home. So while the term "must-win" shouldn't be used for #19 Wisconsin (12-3, 1-1) there's no doubt that Tuesday's game against #11 Michigan State (13.2, 2-0) is critical following their loss to Iowa on Saturday. The biggest reason for the Badgers' loss was their three-point shooting, as they made just three of twenty-eight attempts on the afternoon.

Without a front court player the caliber of the departed Jon Leuer Bo Ryan's team has had to rely more on the outside shot, scoring 35.8% of their points from distance. Guards Josh Gasser (7.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and Ben Brust (10.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg) are their two best shooters while senior point guard Jordan Taylor (12.7 ppg, 4.9 apg, 4.0 rpg) can also knock down the bonus shot if allowed quality looks. This will be a good test for a young Spartan backcourt that's matured very well during their 13-game win streak.

Sophomore Keith Appling (12.3 ppg, 3.7 apg, 3.5 rpg) and freshman Travis Trice (5.8 ppg, 2.1 apg) have been the two players entrusted by Tom Izzo to handle the point guard duties, with Appling steadily becoming a player who can get others involved as well as create his own offense. Setting up teammates was an issue early, but there isn't much shame in struggling against North Carolina and Duke as Appling did in this regard. And while he may not be a guard per se, it certainly helps Michigan State that they've got the versatile Draymond Green to count on.

Green (15.4 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.3 apg) is essentially a coach on the floor for Michigan State and he ranks among the most versatile players in the country. Either Ryan Evans or Mike Bruesewitz will get this assignment for the Badgers, and they have to do a good job of limiting the senior. Averaging 2.5 offensive rebounds per game, Green's one reason why Michigan State corrals 39.6% of their missed shots. Branden Dawson (8.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg), Derrick Nix and Adriean Payne are also good at hitting the glass, and as a team the Spartans out-rebound their opponents by 10.5 rebounds per game.

Michigan State will be up against history however, as they haven't won in Madison since 2001. In order for Wisconsin to keep that streak alive they have to be proficient from distance, but with Michigan State limiting their opponents to 29.9% shooting from three that's easier said than done. Also keep an eye on Michigan State's turnover count, with it being important that they don't try to force things in an attempt to speed things up. Wisconsin's opponents turn the ball over on 21.3% of their possessions and average 12.8 turnovers to just 7.2 assists per game.

Also on the docket Tuesday is Seton Hall hosting Connecticut, and while the Huskies are the more talented team man for man the Pirates definitely have a shot of winning at The Rock. In Herb Pope the Pirates have one of the early frontrunners for Big East Player of the Year, and while UConn has just one loss on the season they haven't shown the killer instinct one would expect of an elite team. But Seton Hall's young guards will have to rise to the challenge in facing Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier if they're to win.

Oklahoma's trip to Columbia should be another interesting game to keep track of, as the Sooners look to rebound from their loss to Cincinnati, and Louisville had better be careful with that St. John's matchup zone. Oral Roberts at Oakland is a game in the Summit that the Golden Grizzlies need in a big way following their rough trip to the Dakotas, and Alabama hits the road to take on Georgia Tech at Philips Arena in a game that would have a bigger impact on the Crimson Tide's resume should they lose rather than take care of business.

Top 25 Games
7:00 PM Arkansas-Little Rock at (2) Kentucky (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Oklahoma at (6) Missouri (ESPN3)
6:30 PM Nebraska at (7) Ohio State (BTN)
7:00 PM (8) Connecticut at Seton Hall (ESPN3)
7:00 PM (10) Louisville at St. John's (ESPNU)
7:00 PM (11) Michigan State at (19) Wisconsin (ESPN2)
7:00 PM UAB at (14) Florida (ESPN3)
7:00 PM (21) Harvard at Fordham
8:05 PM Drake at (24) Creighton (ESPN3)

NCAA Division I Games
7:00 PM Holy Cross at Yale
7:00 PM Bucknell at Dartmouth
7:00 PM Longwood at Army
7:00 PM Maryland-Eastern Shore at Lehigh
7:00 PM Carver Bible College at North Carolina A&T
7:00 PM Oral Roberts at Oakland
7:00 PM South Carolina State at South Carolina
7:00 PM Indiana-Northwest at Toledo
7:00 PM Milwaukee at Western Michigan
7:00 PM Southern Utah at IPFW
8:00 PM Savannah State at Arkansas
8:00 PM Cornell at Maryland (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Oswego State at Texas-Pan American
8:00 PM South Dakota at Western Illinois
8:30 PM Alabama A&M at Jackson State
8:30 PM Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Mississippi Valley State
8:30 PM Southern at Prairie View A&M
9:00 PM Alabama at Georgia Tech (ESPNU)
9:00 PM SMU at Ole Miss (ESPN3)
9:00 PM Houston Baptist at New Mexico
9:00 PM Siena vs. Iona*
9:00 PM Johnson and Wales (Den) at Air Force
9:00 PM Alcorn State at Texas Southern
9:00 PM Alabama State at Grambling State
9:05 PM Wyoming at Utah Valley (FCS)