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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, April 18, 2024

Brad Davison and the Badgers are looking to knock off one of the best teams in the country Friday night at the Breslin Center. 

Wisconsin looks for monumental upset at Michigan State

The easiest six-game stretch in the Wisconsin men’s basketball team’s (3-5 Big Ten, 10-11 overall) conference schedule is over. Having just one opponent ranked in the KenPom top 50, the Badgers’ last half dozen games were a relative cakewalk compared to what’s coming next. The meat of their schedule opens Friday night in East Lansing, Mich., against No. 6 Michigan State (6-2, 18-3).

Despite the light load that UW faced in the first third of its Big Ten slate, the Badgers came away with a 2-4 record with their only wins coming at home against Indiana and Illinois. Now come the mean, green Spartans, headlined by potential future NBA lottery picks Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr., eyeing their first conference crown since 2012.

For the Badgers to have any hope of knocking off one of the top teams in the country, they’ll have to come alive from the perimeter. Redshirt sophomore guard Brevin Pritzl and freshman guard Brad Davison, who both struggled mightily Tuesday night at Iowa, will need to find space behind the arc early and often to overcome a stingy Spartan frontcourt.

Michigan State ranks No. 1 in the country in both opponent 2-point percentage and block percentage, meaning redshirt junior forward Ethan Happ will have his work cut out for him in the paint. Look for the All-American to try to draw double teams down low and kick the ball out to his myriad shooters.

If Pritzl and Davison Jaren Jackson Jr. — along with redshirt freshman forward Aleem Ford — can get going early from deep, that could leave some space around the basket for Happ to operate, which will be critical for the Badgers to find success in East Lansing.

On the other end of the court, the Spartans boast the third-best offensive rebounding rate in college basketball. Led by Bridges, Jackson and Nick Ward, MSU has no shortage of length and isn’t afraid to crash the boards on every shot. If UW can’t close out defensive possessions with strong rebounds, things could quickly get out of hand.

Problems could similarly balloon for the Badgers if the Spartans look to the perimeter offensively, where their 41.7 percent from 3-point range is the seventh-best figure in the country. Nearly everyone on the court for MSU is a threat from downtown, and the Badgers can’t get lost looking inside or helping too much on post ups.

All told, the Friday night fight at the Breslin Center might get ugly, and it might happen early. Bridges is a walking highlight reel, and it’s not even entirely clear that he’s the biggest offensive threat for the Spartans. UW will need some sharpshooting, brilliant rebounding and quite a bit of luck to stay in the game.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

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