MADISON -- Just as Jordan Taylor has taken over as the Badgers' unquestioned leader, so too has Draymond Green done for the Spartans.
With guys like Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers and Delvon Roe gone, Green has led Michigan State to a somewhat surprising run to the top of the Big Ten standings with three weeks to play. Likewise, Taylor has Wisconsin within a game of first place in the conference standings without the help of Jon Leuer, Keaton Nankivil or Tim Jarmusz.
And just as opposing teams focus in on Taylor, the Badgers will need to do their best Thursday night to limit Green if they hope to leave East Lansing with a victory.
"Just his fight," Ryan Evans said of what makes Green tough to defend. "He's not really that tough of a guy to defend, just because you know what he's going to do, but at some times he can just overwill you and get it done.
"That's what I've got to try to do on the defensive end is not let him overpower me."
Green has enjoyed plenty of individual success against Wisconsin in his career, and even more so over the last three matchups. Over six career games against UW, Green has scored 74 points (12.33 per game). Beginning with a 26-point night in East Lansing last season, Green has averaged 19 points per game over his last three against the Badgers.
Earlier this season in Madison, Green led Michigan State with 18 points while also grabbing 14 rebounds in the Spartans' 63-60 victory.
"A great leader, just a great guy you want as a teammate on your team," Josh Gasser said of Green. "He's definitely one of the best players not only in the Big Ten, but in the country. He deserves that."
Green enters Thursday's game ranked ninth in the Big Ten at 15 points per game, and he leads the conference in rebounding, grabbing 10.5 boards per contest. In league play, Green is 10th at 14.6 points per game, while increasing his rebounding lead by pulling down 11.3 per game.
In his best scoring game of the season, Green dropped 34 points at Gonzaga, but grabbed just two rebounds. His best rebounding game of the season was the first, as Green had 18 rebounds to go along with 13 points in a 67-55 loss to North Carolina.
Only once this season -- in Michigan State's 42-41 loss at Illinois -- has Green been held under double digits in both points and rebounds in the same game. Green had five points and eight boards in that contest.
""The last couple games I've watched, he just seems to always be around the ball; he seems to grab every loose ball, every rebound," Gasser said. "He's just a really tough kid. To play against him is a lot of fun because he goes 100 percent all the time. He's got a real good motor. He takes the game real seriously and he's fun to play with."
Evans will likely see a large portion of time defensively against Green. That's especially likely considering Evans did a better job defending Jared Sullinger than Jared Berggren did in the Badgers' 58-52 loss on Feb. 4 at the Kohl Center.
Regardless of who defends Green, that matchup will likely be the key to the outcome Thursday at the Breslin Center.
"Last game up here, Draymond Green just had his way," UW video coordinator Sharif Chambliss said. "Guys know they have a challenge put forth ahead of them right now going in there on Thursday.
"You can't let anybody just dictate what they want to do all the time. [Green] and (Derrick) Nix had their way and Payne was just all over. So we have to be able to go in there and control the physicality of the game."