Badgers Hoops Preview: Title Chances on the line against Spartans

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Well, this is it folks! Win or go to the No. 5 seed in the Big Ten tournament – it's that simple. To the victor go the chances of being co-Big Ten regular season champions. Yes, Indiana still needs a loss but the loser of this game has zero chance of claiming that title period. To say this game is perhaps the most important of the season for both Wisconsin and Michigan State is putting it lightly to be honest. The game tips at 8pm CT on ESPN.

Not only does the loser slot themselves into the No. 5 seed in the Big Ten tournament, but they will have to play in the 1st round of the tournament as well and making a run from day one to the final isn't exactly the ideal situation in this Big Ten season.

Oh, and as if these two teams don't have enough pressure on them they're both none to happy with recent results. Wisconsin stumbled on Senior Day, losing to a game Purdue squad, while MSU is on a three game losing streak. 

To say these two teams have a lot in common this year is an understatement, so is saying these two teams don't like each other a whole heck of a lot. Sure, they respect what each other can do, but they sure as heck don't like each other. 

If you were wondering exactly what happens should the Badgers or Spartans win, we suggest you check out the great breakdown of the likely scenarios from our friends at The B1G Time.

The Opposition

Michigan State comes into this one in desperate need of something positive as they stare a possible four game losing streak in the face. The good news for Michigan State? They are 7-3 in the past ten matchups against the Badgers and currently own a four game winning streak in the series. Oh, and this one is at home where they are currently 15-1 on the season. 

So, what's been going wrong for MSU as of late? Well, you could point to a lack of production on the offensive end of the floor, scoring just 61.6 points a game versus their season average of nearly 70 points a game. It could be that… or it could be the fact that they've played Indiana, Ohio State, and Michigan – you know, the other top teams in the conference. 

It begs the question of just how good this team is, after all they own just two wins over teams not named Wisconsin on the year. However, that doesn't mean this isn't a dangerous team. Wisconsin must find a way to deal with one of the most dynamic guard duos in the Big Ten in Keith Appling and Gary Harris. 

Harris has been great as of late, averaging 16 points a game and shooting 55% from the field and it'll be up to Ben Brust to find a way to get him out of his rhythm. 

Key Matchup: Branden Dawson vs. Ryan Evans 

Wisconsin was lucky to not lose Ryan Evans for a game or more with his sprained knee, suffered a week ago, and they'll need him to be on in this one as he goes up against nearly a mirror image of him in Branden Dawson. Dawson averages 10 points and 6 rebounds a game and is a matchup nightmare for most teams. 

Luckily for Wisconsin they have their own version in Evans, who is better defensively and perhaps just a big worse offensively, than Dawson. Evans is averaging 10.4 points per game and a team best 7.6 rebounds a game. 

If you're looking for a clue as to how this game is going to go, watch what these two are doing and you'll find all you need to know.

Prediction: Wisconsin 64, Michigan State 58

Would you expect anything but a close game between these two teams with the way this season has gone? Why am I picking the Badgers in the face of all the evidence that says it shouldn't happen? Simply put, that's exactly why I'm picking the Badgers. They play their best basketball when no one gives them a chance and they certainly aren't afraid of playing in a hostile environment. Add in the fact that they've only lost one game against the top teams not named Michigan State and you see exactly why I'm not afraid to pick the Badgers. Besides, this season is full of unpredictable results, so why not have some faith in your team, right?

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college football for nearly half a decade. He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadgers.com and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, 32flags.com

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