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1/26 Big Ten Preview: MSU at Wisconsin

Preview all of Friday’s Big Ten action.

Syndication: Lansing State Journal Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Big Ten only has one game on Friday, but it’s a big one with Michigan State going on the road to face a ranked Wisconsin squad. It’s the second meeting between the two after the Badgers won in East Lansing earlier this season.

Let’s take a look at the schedule.

Game of the Day:

-Michigan State Spartans at No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers

  • Time/TV: 8:00 PM ET (FS1)
  • KenPom Spread: Wisconsin by 4

Heading into this season, most Big Ten pundits were focused on Michigan State and Purdue and their hopes of winning the regular season crown. Both ended up ranked among the nation’s elite in the preseason rankings and seemed poised to dominate the Big Ten. For the Spartans, much as built on last year’s run to the Sweet 16.

However, as we head into the final days of January, it’s Wisconsin that sits atop the Big Ten standings. The Badgers stumbled out of the gate to a 1-2 record, but have been fantastic since then. The team is 14-2 over its last 16 games and has beaten plenty of quality competition, including Marquette and Michigan State in early December. Wisconsin has also compiled a 7-1 mark in conference play, a half game ahead of Purdue in the conference standings and two games ahead of everyone else. It’s been quite a run.

The question is now whether Wisconsin can survive a treacherous slate over the next few weeks and maintain its lead in the conference standings. That effort will begin on Friday against a hot Michigan State squad that’s won three straight. And it’s a crucial game with Purdue approaching on February 4th. The Badgers need this win to keep pace in the title race. And Michigan State needs it to start moving up into the top tier of the league.

The matchup will almost assuredly hinge on how Wisconsin defends Tyson Walker. The Spartan guard eats up a massive amount of Michigan State’s shots. In fact, he accounts for 33.3 percent when on the floor, which ranks 24th nationally. That’s an absurd level for a team rated 16th on KenPom. And when you add in that Walker also has one of the highest assist rates on Michigan State’s squad, it’s easy to see his impact. If Chucky Hepburn and Max Klesmit hold their own against Walker, it should be a win for the Badgers.

The frontcourt battle is also a relatively intriguing spot to watch. Neither team has a superstar up there, but both have players who can go off on a given night. Can Mady Sissoko make an impact against Tyler Wahl or Steven Crowl and take some pressure off Walker? Sissoko has been a no show in most of his recent games. Perhaps Friday is a night where he can step up.

All told, Wisconsin looks poised to grab the win here. Michigan State is simply too dependent on Walker to keep pace in a road game like this.

  • Pick: Wisconsin

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Picks Record This Season: 63-23