The college basketball weekend opens with a bang on Friday night when the no. 8 Wisconsin Badgers host the no. 14 Michigan State Spartans. Both have just one loss in Big Ten play, so the winner will at least be tied for the conference lead after the weekend. At home, the Badgers are listed as 3.5-point favorites, with the over/under listed at 140 points.
The Badgers are one of the hottest teams in the country right now, winning seven in a row. They are also 15-2 overall, with their only losses coming to Providence and Ohio State. That puts Wisconsin at 6-1 in Big Ten play, the same as Illinois.
Meanwhile, Michigan State is 5-1 within the conference, putting them half a game behind Wisconsin and Illinois. However, the 14-3 Spartans are lacking a signature win this season outside of an early win over UConn. Michigan State is also coming off a disappointing loss to Northwestern last weekend, a loss that snapped a nine-game winning streak.
Strong at the Point
The biggest difference between this year’s Michigan State team and last year’s team is the point guard the Spartans are getting. Northeastern transfer Tyson Walker is averaging 5.2 assists per game despite not being a strong scorer. Meanwhile, backup A.J. Hoggard is dishing out 4.5 assists per game, although he doesn’t score much either, and so the MSU backcourt is somewhat limited in terms of scoring.
On the bright side, the Spartans are loaded with talented wing players. Gabe Brown has had a breakout season, averaging 14.2 points per game, while freshman Max Christie is chipping in 10.4 points per game. There is also good depth in the Michigan State frontcourt, with Malik Hall and Marcus Bingham both averaging at least nine points per game, while Joey Hauser is a capable scorer despite having a diminished role compared to last season.
The Two Badgers
Wisconsin has been led all season by the efforts of Johnny Davis and Brad Davison. Davis is a serious Big Ten Player of the Year candidate, averaging 22.1 points per game while also leading the Badgers in rebounds and assist. He’s been huge all season while Davison is chipping in 15.1 points per game and is the team’s best outside shooter.
However, Wisconsin can be overly reliant on those two players, as the Badgers are lacking scoring depth and strong perimeter shooters other than Davis and Davison. The exception to that is Tyler Wahl, who scores 11 points per game and gives the Badgers a strong post presence. However, Wisconsin only has five players who average more than three points per game, so if Davis and Davison don’t show up, they’re usually in trouble.
The Spartans surely have an advantage when it comes to depth and having point guards that can get the rest of the team involved. However, Davis will be by far the best player on the floor on Friday, giving Wisconsin a distinct advantage. With the Badgers at home, bet on Wisconsin to win and cover the 3.5-point spread.
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