This afternoon's game for the Michigan State Spartans is one that was circled on the calendar when the schedules were released last summer.
The Wisconsin Badgers will be in town for the one and only meeting between the two teams this season, barring a match-up in the Big Ten Tournament.
Every season, the Badgers are viewed as a team that will have to rebuild after losing key pieces, but they always seem to exceed expectations. This season has been no different as the Badgers sit at 17-9 and 8-6 in the Big Ten.
They have bounced back, winning their last five games after losing the previous six. The resiliency can be attributed to the fact that the Badgers have a lot of guys that have been through a lot of battles.
"They got Big Ten experience," MSU senior Travis Walton said. "They won a championship last year when everybody thought they were going to be down a little bit."
The cause for the turnaround can be accredited to the play of Trevon Hughes. His play has improved greatly, but not necessarily in the scoring column. The junior's overall floor game and leadership has given a significant boost to the Badgers.
"He's a pretty good player. He's been playing good," Walton said. "He had some struggles earlier, but he's been playing a lot better basketball. He's kind of just their general."
One of the staples of the Wisconsin program is that they get contributions from many players. This season, no one averages over 13 points per game. Their balance and experience make them a dangerous team, even on the road.
"They've been more physical. They're a little bit more explosive. I think Hughes has really opened some things up," Spartan coach Tom Izzo explained.
"They got a guard they bring in, (Jordan) Taylor, that has given them a little bit more too. Then those two kids (Jon) Leuer and (Keaton) Nankivil can shoot threes, so that spreads you out a little bit more."
Bo Ryan is known for his swing offense, which requires his players to be multifaceted. The Badgers provide a challenge that many teams have confronted the Spartans with, and that is having multiple players with extensive skill-sets.
Freshman Delvon Roe is convinced that he know what the Spartans have to do to stop Ryan's club on Sunday.
"Basically you're gonna have to communicate, and play solid defense," Roe said. "High intensity ball pressure, because if you don't have that ball pressure you're going to give up a lot of back doors and easy post feeds. Stop their post game and make them settle for a lot of outside jump shots … we should be fine."
RECOVERING FROM A TOUGH LOSS
Playing in a conference like the Big Ten is grueling because any team can lose to anybody on any given night.
The Spartans were handled by Purdue on Tuesday in a game that could have potentially taken a while to recover from, given the fashion in which they lost, but this MSU team knows that they have another tough opponent on Sunday and that they can't dwell on the past. Just learn from it and move on.
"What you hope to get out of a loss is to figure out why you loss," Izzo said. "Like everything else in life you got to figure out what the problem was before you can fix it."
Sophomore Durrell Summers knows what the problem is.
"At the beginning we got to come out and just bring it to teams. I think against Purdue, we didn't come out and match their intensity," Summers explained. "Against Wisconsin, they're another smash mouth team, we got to just come out and match their intensity or try to set the intensity high ourselves and have them try to match ours."
In the practices since the loss, the team has been focused and motivated. Many of the players feel encouraged by what they have seen in practice.
"We responded great, better than what I would've expected," Walton said. "We had two great practices … probably the two best practices of the year."