Know Thy Enemy is a weekly Q&A where the perspective changes from the eyes of The State News to the eyes of the student newspaper of Michigan State basketball's opponent.
After dropping their perfect conference record in an ugly match-up at Purdue, Michigan State men's basketball had a five-day break to regroup before hosting Wisconsin at 6 p.m. on Jan. 17.
The Badgers (11-6 overall, 4-2 Big Ten) travel to East Lansing with hopes to end an 11-game losing streak at the Breslin Center, their last win coming all the way back in 2004.
However, Wisconsin comes with some notable road wins under their belt, securing wins at both Ohio State and Penn State and their most recent win against No. 17 Maryland prove they'll be a serious contender to take away MSU's current first place standing in the Big Ten.
This week, The State News spoke with The Badger Herald's sports reporter Will Whitmore to get an insider's perspective on who exactly the Spartans will be going up against come Friday night.
Q: Junior guard Brad Davison recently saved the Badgers from a loss to Maryland with a critical steal that led to a game winning three-point shot. What does Davison bring to the Badgers and how is he able to act under pressure like he did against Maryland?
A: Brad brings an unprecedented amount of toughness and leadership to Wisconsin's team. Even though Brad has had his ups and downs scoring this year, he will always give Wisconsin physical defense and unmatched effort. Brad has had a knack for hitting big shots his whole life. Growing up in Minnesota and as a former basketball teammate of Brad, he always seems to raise his game when the pressure is at its highest. Instead of shying away from the moment, he cherishes it. Another big thing was that Brad was forced to step into a large role almost immediately in Wisconsin. As a freshman, Brad used a down year for the program as a way to improve his game and not shying away from big moments.
Q: Wisconsin has taken two Big Ten road wins this season, which has proven difficult within the conference, against Ohio State and Penn State. How does Wisconsin stay competitive on the road? What will they have to do in order to compete at Michigan State?
A: One thing that always makes Wisconsin tough on the road is that they force you to play their style of basketball. They excel at making teams play at their pace and counter that with physical defense for 40 minutes. That is pretty evident in both of their road wins. To hold both Penn State and Ohio State under 60 points was impressive. Even though both Kaleb Wesson and Lamar Stevens had big games against the Badgers, they were able to neutralize the other role players around those stars to win those pivotal road games. For a win against Michigan State they have to be able to slow down the two-man game between Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman. Winston is so lethal in the pick and roll so Wisconsin can't afford to switch ball screens, forcing a bad matchup with Winston on a big like Micah Potter or Nate Reuvers — Trice and Davison need to do their best to fight through the screens and stay with Cassius, which is easier said than done.
Q: Redshirt junior Micah Potter, the transfer from OSU, is finally seeing some game time after being benched for a year per NCAA rules. Is he bringing to the table what the Badgers expected him to bring? How has he stood out so far?
A: Micah Potter has had a huge impact already for Wisconsin. The big man brings size for Wisconsin on the defensive end and has a nice touch from the perimeter. It's great to see that he is making such an impact for the Badgers this early. Potter has also hit six threes in the last two games, stretching the floor for the offense. One key thing to analyze is how comfortable Greg Gard will be playing both Potter and Reuvers together. Potter has had a major impact but hasn't seen an increase in minutes. It will be interesting to see if Potter continues to contribute whether Gard will continue to sit him in crunch time.
Q: Who stands out on the Badgers on both the offensive and defensive side of things? Who will the Badgers look towards as leaders when they travel to East Lansing on Friday?
A: Nathan Reuvers is a key player to watch on the offensive end. Reuvers can hurt you from both inside and beyond the arc, with an array of post moves down low. He has gotten a lot stronger over the past year which has helped his ability to finish inside. He is currently averaging 14 points per game. Defensively I like the game of freshman, Tyler Wahl. While Wahl's contribution may not show up on the box score but he uses his length at 6'7" to get into passing lanes and disrupt passes. Like Davison, Wahl is a grinder and will do all of the little things to win.
Q: What is your score prediction and why?
A: I think that the game will be competitive. Michigan State may get frustrated in the first half playing at Wisconsin's pace, but in the end, I think the two-man game of Winston and Tillman will be too much for the Badgers. My prediction the Spartans knock off the Badgers 65-57.
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