Michigan State basketball: Undermanned Wisconsin still a major test

Xavier Tillman, Michigan State basketball (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Xavier Tillman, Michigan State basketball (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

An undermanned Wisconsin team is still a threat to Michigan State basketball on Saturday afternoon in Madison. It won’t be an easy win.

Back-to-back wins have followed a loss at Indiana a week ago and the Spartans have pulled back into a first-place tie with Illinois in the Big Ten.

Things are heating up, though, as the road games don’t get easier from here on out with the Spartans traveling to Madison on Saturday afternoon to face a Wisconsin team that just lost two of its best players — one to suspension and the other to eventual transfer.

Wisconsin (12-9, 5-5) needs some big, resume-boosting wins and Michigan State would be just that, but they’re going to have a tough time without their point guard and second-leading scorer.

Michigan State (16-5, 8-2) is looking to extend that Big Ten lead to 0.5 games again but getting off to quick starts on the road has been next to impossible for this team.The Spartans have unlimited potential, but that all depends on the play of guys like Gabe Brown, Rocket Watts and Aaron Henry. If they all step up, this team will take care of business away from home.

Here’s how you can watch Saturday’s game at Wisconsin:

Date: Saturday, Feb. 1
Time: 1 p.m. ET
Location: Madison, Wisc.
Venue: Kohl Center
Live Stream: FOX Sports Go

Keys to Victory

While Wisconsin lost both Brad Davison (suspension) and Kobe King (left program) ahead of Saturday’s game, the Badgers still have leading scorer Nate Reuvers to give the Spartans fits. If Michigan State can lock him down in the post and also don’t let him step out and burn the green and white beyond the arc, Wisconsin will have a very difficult time finding points. D’Mitrik Trice can be a threat, but Reuvers has the potential to give MSU the most problems.

Michigan State needs to get off to a quick start on the road and that’s something that usually decides if the Spartans are going to win or lose away from home. In fact, Michigan State got off to strong starts against Northwestern and Minnesota on the road and it ended up winning. Conversely, the Spartans got off to slow starts against Purdue and Indiana and lost both. Get off to a quick start and the chances of winning are elevated.

Players to Watch

Without King and Davison, Wisconsin doesn’t have many scoring threats. This is a team that averaged 66 points per game before they were lost for this one, so the Badgers have become less than potent offensively — and on defense.

  • Nate Reuvers: 13.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, 47% FG
  • D’Mitrik Trice: 9.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 36% 3-point shooting
  • Micah Potter: 9.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 54% FG, 47%, 3-point shooting

dark. Next. Michigan State's all-2010s starting five


If King and Davison were both playing in this one, I’d probably give a slight edge to the Badgers because the Kohl Center is not an easy place to play, but without them, the Spartans should beat Wisconsin. I would say the Spartans should win handily, but I know how road games in the Big Ten can be and Trice and Reuvers are still threats to score in their own right. Cassius Winston will have a big game on the road and the Spartans will avoid an ugly start to steal one from the Badgers.

Final Score: Michigan State 71, Wisconsin 63