The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team faces a big test on Sunday in traveling to East Lansing to face Big(11)Ten leader Michigan State. The game should be a good measure of how far the Badgers have come since digging themselves in a mid-season hole with a 6 game losing streak. Since that slide, UW has rebounded with five consecutive victories and climbed back into the fringe of the conference race. They are currently in fourth place and a win over MSU would leave them two games behind with 3 winnable contests remaining. It would also provide them with a “signature win” to bolster their case for an NCAA tournament bid.
The Badgers took care of business at Indiana the other night but the game wasn’t as easy as the 68-51 final score would indicate. Wisconsin let the Hoosiers dictate the tempo for much of the first half before righting themselves and pulling away in the second. While I’ve complained in this space previously that sometimes the Badgers are a little too deliberate for their own good, neither does it serve them to be drawn into a running game with a more athletic opponent. Their interior defense was also exposed a bit as Indiana scored a high number of baskets in the paint over UW defenders. While the insertion of 6’10″ Jon Leuer into the starting lineup has been a boon for the offense, it still leaves them without a strong middle defender.
Under coach Bo Ryan, Wisconsin has traditionally played well against MSU, but those teams were generally stronger on defense with a more substantial post presence than the Badgers currently possess. If they open up on Sunday as they did at Indiana, the Badgers may find themselves out of the game before they even have a chance to mount a comeback.