Friday Night Links
- Tears from Jud?
1979 reunion Sunday.
- Red eyes revisited
Mr. Rexrode reminds us what happens the last time MSU and Wisconsin met. Also: Morgan could play 20 minutes; Lucious has the flu.
- Here we go again…
Boiled Sports reporting Robbie Hummel’s back is acting up again; could put him out for the season. Classy blogger in me hopes he can play at least some of their remaining games; desperate MSU fan in me will take any advantage we can get.
- CITADEL’S CONROY A COACH OF YEAR CANDIDATE
Remember The Citadel? Turns out they’re having a pretty good year.
Wisconsin Game Preview
3:00 Sunday. The Breslin Center. ESPN.
On paper, the games against Illinois and Purdue are the two toughest remaining regular season contests.
But this one may actually be bigger. It’s our only match-up of the season with the team that’s been our greatest nemesis in recent years. Since Bo Ryan took over as head coach, we’ve lost 11 of 14 games against the Badgers. The last time these two teams met, the result was perhaps the most crushing loss of the Tom Izzo era.
A win Sunday would get that monkey off our back and leave us in position to clinch at least a share of the Big Ten title by winning just one of the Illinois/Purdue games. A loss would drop us into a tie with Purdue (who will presumably wipe the floor with their in-state rivals tomorrow) and completely eliminate our front runner status.
Wisconsin enters the game with an un-Wisconsinlike conference record of 8-6. But they’ve won their last five games in a row. And their conference-only tempo-free profile isn’t looking too bad:
|MSU Off||Rk||Wis Def||Rk|
|Wis Off||Rk||MSU Def||Rk|
Offensively, the Badgers have now surpassed MSU as the most efficient team in the conference. The key to that efficiency is avoiding turnovers. Wisconsin has taken 5.3 more shots from the field per game than their opponents in conference play. And they’re getting increasingly efficient with those shots, particularly from beyond the arc. After shooting 40% or better from 3-point range in just 2 of their first 7 Big Ten games, they’ve done so in 5 of their last 7 games.
The Badgers’ playing rotation is built around four guys playing 30+ minutes per game:
- Point guard Trevon Hughges, who is averaging 11.1 points/game but shooting only 32.7% from the field.
- Shooting guard Jason Bohannon, who is averaging 10.1 points/game on 41.3% 3-point shooting.
- Small forward Joe Krabbehoft, who is averaging 9.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game, while posting a very efficient 53.1/47.1/84.8 shooting line.
- Power forward Marcus Landry, who leads the team in scoring at 13.4 points/game on 55.0% 2-point shooting.
All four of these guys are smart, experienced players. They don’t make mistakes with the ball and they play cohesively running Bo Ryan’s swing offense. But, at the same time, none of them is particularly effective at creating a shot when the shot clock is running down. Hughes’ shooting numbers attest to his struggles creating shots on his own. Landry is their most talented player with the ball, but it’s difficult for a post player to get the ball and create a good shot with the shot clock running down.
Even more so than in past contests, then, the key for MSU is to not have defensive lapses that lead to open 3-point looks or layups. They need to force the Wisconsin players to try to beat them one on one. During Wisconsin’s six-game losing streak in the first half of conference play, their inability to manufacture quality shots late in games cost them several games in which they otherwise outplayed their opponents. And, unlike past Badger teams, they don’t put themselves in a position to get fouled that frequently.
Defensively, Wisconsin is remarkably mediocre this year. They don’t force many turnovers and, because they don’t have great interior defenders, they’re forced to foul quite a bit. It’s funny that, after all those years of losing offensive stars and not missing a beat, the loss of a defensive standout (Michael Flowers) may be what has finally caught up with them. Durrell Summers should have a sizable athletic advantage over whoever’s matched up with him.
The one area where Wisconsin continues to excel on defense is rebounding the ball. Despite a lack of depth inside, the Badgers rank first in the conference in defensive rebounding percentage. They do it as a team, with five different guys (the four listed above, plus forward Jon Leuer) averaging at least 2 defensive rebounds per game. That may negate MSU’s major offensive strength, meaning we’ll need to convert more first-chance opportunities. Another sub-30% three-point shooting effort would be extremely problematic. Hopefully, Wisconsin’s more passive man-to-man defense will allow Kalin Lucas to get into a better scoring rhythm than he’s had of late.
Kenpom predicts a 67-61 MSU win in a 61-possession game. Can a Spartan-Badger game really feature two teams that are better on offense than they are on defense?