As the Big Ten regular season winds down,the No. 22 Wisconsin Badgers are visiting East Lansing to play the No. 10 Michigan State Spartans on Thursday. In this matchup between teams fighting for fourth place in the conference, the squad that does a better job of holding onto the ball and has more success from behind the arc will find themselves victorious.
Michigan State is a team that really thrives off of forcing turnovers, leading the conference with 8.1 steals per game. However, they turn the ball over more than every team in the conference except Minnesota, averaging 13.7 per contest.
The best examples of how these numbers affect Michigan State are in its matchups with Michigan. In the first meeting the Spartans won by 23, forcing 16 turnovers while committing only eight.
In the second game the Wolverines won. This time it was Michigan State with the unfavorable turnover tilt, committing 18 turnovers while only forcing seven.
The Badgers are a much more conservative team on both ends of the court. Wisconsin is eighth in the Big Ten with less than six steals per game, but it is second in turnovers with only 9.5.
Michigan State must hold on to the ball or force Wisconsin into making mistakes. Michigan State had more turnovers than its opponents in six of their seven losses.
Michigan State and Wisconsin have nearly an identical shooting percentage from behind the arc, separated by just one-tenth of a percent. The difference between the two teams is that Wisconsin has shot 227 more threes this season.
The Badgers have taken more threes than 311 teams this season. Their offense really relies on their ability to stretch defenses and make the deep ball.
In Wisconsin's nine losses this season, the team shot significantly worse from behind the arc than in their wins. The Badgers were held to 30.2 percent in losses, but shot 36.3 percent in victories.
Michigan State will have to extend its defense and force Wisconsin into difficult shots. Slowing down Ben Brust and Sam Dekker will be most important. The two are a combined 111 of 269 from behind the arc, or 41.2 percent. The Spartans were able to hold Wisconsin to 29.6 percent from three-point land in their first meeting, a 49-47 victory.
Michigan State was able to stop the Badgers 3-point shooting earlier in this season, and this game will be more of the same. Playing in front of the Izzone, the Spartans will snap their three-game losing streak tonight.