The #9 Wisconsin Badgers (7-1, 1-0 Big Ten) and #12 Michigan State Spartans (6-1, 0-1 Big Ten) get together on Christmas Day in a Top 15 conference matchup. Both traditional Big Ten basketball powers will meet just once this season in conference play. Tip-off is at 12:30 p.m. EST inside the Breslin Center in East Lansing, MI. The Badgers are a 2-point road favorite in the conference tilt, according to oddsmakers.
What to Know – Wisconsin Badgers
A two-point defeat to in-state rival Marquette is the only blemish on Wisconsin’s record early on this season. The Badgers opened conference play Tuesday night with a 14-point victory in Madison against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Through the first eight games of the season, senior forward Micah Porter paces the Badgers averaging 13.4 points per game. Porter notched his first double-double of the season against the Cornhuskers, scoring ten points and grabbing 11 rebounds in the route.
Three other Wisconsin starters are posting double-digit averages through the early stages of the season. Brad Davison (11.3 ppg), D’Mitrik Trice (11.0 ppg), and Nate Reuvers (10.9 ppg) provide additional scoring options for a Badgers offense that averages 77.3 points per game. Wisconsin shoots 45.8% from the floor and 41.8% from the arc while surrendering a conference-best 57.5 points per game.
Twenty-eight writers picked Wisconsin to finish third in the unofficial Big Ten Media Poll conducted before the season.
What to Know – Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State rolled through the nonconference portion of their schedule that included a victory a six-point victory over the Duke Blue Devils inside Cameron Indoor. The Spartans opened their conference slate on the road Sunday night against Northwestern and were upset in a 14-point loss to the Wildcats for the first time in 13 tries.
The Spartans roll out a balanced offensive attack with four players averaging in double figures. Junior forward Joey Hauser is the leader of the pack, scoring 12.1 points per game this season. Forward Aaron Henry (12.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg) led the Spartans with 11 points against Northwestern.
Rocket Watts (11.7 ppg) and Gabe Brown (10.6 ppg) also have their scoring averages in double figures and have 20+ scoring outbursts in at least one game early on in the season. Michigan State averages 82.0 points per game, behind 46.9% shooting from the floor and 34.6% shooting from 3-pointer.
In the same media poll that projected the Badgers to finish third, the Spartans were one slot behind them at fourth.
The Pick is In
You could look at Sunday’s loss for the Spartans and chalk it up to rust since Michigan State since it was just the Spartans’ second game since December 7th. After an uncharacteristic performance by Michigan State, we expect them to play focus and energy in a huge matchup against the Badgers. On the other hand, Wisconsin will play their slow, methodical brand of basketball and try and keep the pace of play down and limit the Spartans’ offense. It is just hard to see the Spartans dropping their first two conference games, especially one on their home floor.
The Pick: Michigan State +2