Solid Scouting

The game is played on the court, something Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan has insisted upon for years. But without the scouting work done by associate head coach Greg Gard against Michigan State, the Badgers' opponent tonight, Wisconsin would not be nearly as successful.

MADISON - The thud Greg Gard's Michigan State scouting report made on the Kohl Center's sideboard was noticeable. Roughly a 15 to 20 page document neatly typed up, Gard put together a comprehensive breakdown of the Spartans' tendencies, players and trends.

After doing it for over a decade, it didn't take that long to do.

"I can look back to scouting reports five, 10, 12 years ago and the x's and o's aren't going to change a whole lot," said Gard, Wisconsin's associate head coach. "The bodies and individuals do but in terms of what they try to establish and what they are about is consistent."

In charge of breaking down Michigan State since arriving with Bo Ryan for the 2001-02 season, Gard has helped Wisconsin go 13-9 in Ryan's 11 seasons against Michigan State, including winning 11 of the first 14 meetings to establish Wisconsin as a yearly Big Ten contender.

Tuesday night is another one of those vital conference meetings, as No.13 Michigan State (16-3, 5-1 Big Ten) looks to expand its lead in the Big Ten when it travels to the Kohl Center to take on Wisconsin (13-5, 4-1). The Spartans have a half game lead over three teams.

Michigan State won four straight Big Ten championships from 1998-2001, including the national championship in 2000, before Ryan and Gard arrived. After that happened, the Spartans and head coach Tom Izzo went seven seasons without one despite making three Sweet 16 appearances.

After a short-handed Wisconsin beat No.5 Michigan State, 67-49, in February 2010, Ryan let the secret out by complimenting Gard on national television and expanded those comments afterword.

"I just thought after the way he had the scout team running the Michigan State stuff and thinking about how we've done against Michigan State," Ryan said at the time. "Small-minded people make a big thing about other things. Open-minded people should think about this and the preparation that goes into playing a team as good as Michigan State, you've got to give credit to the coach who had been doing the scouting report for Michigan State from day one.

"Greg Gard and what he's done with the Michigan State preparation over the years has been outstanding."

Gard joked that those comments have caused Izzo to plan differently. Since dominating the series early, Michigan State has won six of eight, won at the Kohl Center for the first time since pre-Ryan last year and became just the second team to beat Wisconsin three times in a year with Ryan as the head coach. The Spartans have also won at least a share of the conference title in three of the past four seasons.

Tonight brings another challenge for Wisconsin. Michigan State guards Keith Appling (junior) and Gary Harris (freshman) are the top two scorers on the team (averaging 13.8 and 12.6 points, respectively), and the post is patrolled by two big bodies in senior Derrick Nix and junior Adreian Payne.

The 6-foot-9, 270-pound Nix and the 6-10, 240-pound Payne both started in Michigan State's 59-56 victory over visiting Ohio State on Saturday night; a victory that was helped in part by the Spartans outscoring the Buckeyes 34-14 in the paint.

UW managed 42 points in the paint in three losses to Michigan State last season. The Spartans had 92 in those three games, including outscoring Wisconsin 22-6 on point in the paint.

"That's a huge challenge," said Gard, especially since Wisconsin will be without sophomore center Frank Kaminsky (eye). "They're two bigs that play well off each other. They work them into some high-low (situations). They find each other pretty well.

"Nix is better conditioned as his career has gone on. He's better with his feet. They go to him and he's delivered … They're a handful, there's no doubt. We're going to have to play extremely well up front to be successful."

Scouting reports are an unseen necessity in sports, but Wisconsin, according to senior forward Mike Bruesewitz, has some of the best assistants when it comes to scouting reports.

"We have some assistant coaches that put together some of the best scouting reports in the country," said Bruesewitz, who also pointed out Gary Close's work scouting Indiana. "That's a testament to how hard those guys work. They work together, watch a ton of film and make good use of that."

Traditionally, the Michigan State-Wisconsin series has had much higher stakes than the one with Indiana with at least one team has being ranked in the 21 of the last 22 meetings.

"That's just the culture that they have over there," said Bruesewitz. "They play extremely hard. Izzo does a great job of getting all his guys to buy into his system."

That system, according to Bruesewitz and the scouting report, are a lot of offensive sets, transition offense, pick-and-roll plays and physical rebounding. If Michigan State can't get points on a fast break, the Spartans will look to run a set play that requires discipline defense.

In the two regular season meetings last year, Michigan State outscored Wisconsin 19-0 in fast break points. In all three meetings, Wisconsin shot less than 35 percent .

"You got to win the glass against those guys. You got to win the hustle plays if you want a chance at beating them. (Last year's failure) had a lot to do with physical toughness inside. We just have to take it and put it right back on them. We can't back down from these guys."

Not surprisingly, toughness was listed near the top of Gard's scouting report.


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