It will be Senior Day for the Badgers on Sunday, adding a degree of difficulty to an already complex task. Wisconsin will honor five seniors playing their final game at the Kohl Center, adding to their legendary home court advantage and motivation for winning at least a share of the Big Ten to the ledger against our Boilermakers.
Today's preview offers not only a look at Purdue's final road game of the season, but a Q&A with SB Nation's Bucky's 5th Quarter. Let's get to it:
Location: Madison, WI
2011-12 record: 26-10-12-6 Big Ten
2012-13 Record: 20-8, 11-4 Big Ten
2012 Postseason: Lost to Syracuse 64-63 in NCAA Sweet 16
Blog Representation: Bucky's 5th Quarter (Link is to my Q&A there)
Series With Purdue: Purdue Leads 104-65
Last Purdue win: 70-62 on 2/16/2011at Purdue
Last Wisconsin win: 67-62 on 1/12/2012 at Purdue
Odds: Wisconsin by 14.5
Purdue has its work cut out for it. This is your typical Bo Ryan team. They play stifling defense and are perfectly comfortable dragging the game down into the 40's. Since Purdue sometimes struggles to crack 50 as it is things could get even worse. In eight Big Ten home games before this Wisconsin gave up 51, 51, 49, 44, 70 (in double overtime), 62 (in overtime), 49, and 46. Michigan was the most successful with 60 points in regulation while Iowa had 58 in regulation before losing 74-70 in two overtimes.
A key element will be Ryan Evans. The senior averages 10.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game, but injured his knee in practice this week. The injury happened on Thursday and an update is expected later today. Evans is a key player, but a liability at the line at a dismal 41.4%. He does a lot of his scoring by getting to the basket and getting rebounds, so if he is Purdue certainly will not miss him.
Jared Berggren, Ben Brust, and freshman Sam Dekker handle the bulk of the rest of the scoring. Dekker has been impressive as a 6'7" forward that can shoot the three extremely well. He defends without fouling and will likely be a mismatch on the perimeter. We refuse to guard it anyway, and if he has D.J. Byrd on him (a likely matchup) it could be especially brutal.
As usual, Wisconsin is a physical team. Frank Kaminsky and Mike Bruesewitz fill their "large, white, Polish forward" role. They will grind Purdue into a fine powder if guys like Donnie Hale, A.J. Hammons, and Sandi Marcius do not play tough in the post. Wisconsin rates 52nd in rebounding nationally and offensive rebounding is a strength. Given Purdue's lack of ability to box out on the defensive glass this is another major plus in favor of the Badgers.
Traevon Jackson has come on well at the point this season and takes care of the basketball while running the show. This is a very smart, disciplined team that makes few mistakes and plays hard-nosed basketball. It does not bode well when Purdue still makes a ton of mistakes and its toughness has been questioned. Remember a few seasons ago when Lewis Jackson was knocked down by "Large, white, Polish Forward No. 37" early on just to set the tone on an early screen? Nothing else sums up Wisconsin basketball better.
Still, Purdue has been one of the few teams that has played well in the Kohl Center of late. Purdue won there in 2008 and 2009 and lost close games in our last two trips. Those were with a vastly different team, however. Wisconsin may have the best home court advantage in the conference and they may have met the quota of home losses this season when Virginia and Michigan State beat them.
To win Purdue is going to have to play like the Purdue of old. It needs to get on the glass and defend like mad bastards. Basically, the exact opposite of how we have played over the last month of the season.
Prediction: Wisconsin 56, Purdue 45
In the meantime, here is my Q&A with Phill Mitten of B5Q
T-Mill: What is the deal with Bo Ryan? Is he a wizard? That's the only explanation for his ability to avoid Thursday in the Big Ten Tournament.
Phil: Bo is certainly more than he appears to be. To opposing fans, he's just a guy going berserk on officials. To the media, he's a guy who won't stop telling peculiar anecdotes about Philly. If he is a wizard, I guess his most magical spells are leadership and consistency. To be able to steady the ship while breaking in an unknown point guard unexpectedly wasn't always pretty, but he did it. This season has probably been among Bo's top two coaching performances sat Wisconsin (along with his first season).
T-Mill: With three games left and needing only an Indiana loss does Wisconsin win the conference and take the No. 1 seed in Chicago?
Phil: I don't know if Indiana will lose again to be honest. Losing streaks have not been their M.O. this year and the Hoosiers get a couple home games to recharge. Wisconsin's chances obviously boil down to two games: UW must beat Michigan State and Michigan must beat Indiana. The Badgers are definitely capable of winning in East Lansing, but they haven't proven that in many years. It is a tall order. My prediction would be a 2- or 3-seed, but I sure do love the fact that the No. 1 is a possibility.
T-Mill: Wisconsin reminds me of my high school team in that we had a defensive-minded coach that loved to choke games into the 40's, but still win. Do most Wisconsin fans embrace this or is there a yearning for more points?
Phil: Yeah, of course you want to see more points realistically, but never at the expense of winning. In general, most fans accept the trade off. I would say because of the styles of the last two head coaches (gotta throw Dick Bennett into the equation), Wisconsin fans do have a deeper appreciation for some nuances of the game, particularly on defense. So the most frustrated you will hear a Wisconsin fan is when they sense the team has a truly special player on its hands (ex: freshman Sam Dekker) who doesn't get more playing time because his defense isn't on par with his offense.
There are two kinds of ugly games that are equally bad in their own way: (1) slow, defensive grinders with bad shooting and (2) sloppy YMCA scrimmages with passes sailing out of bounds. Badger fans balance their displeasure with seeing occasional games from the first category with the assurance that they never have to sit through one from the second category.
But it's like Al Davis said, just win, baby.
T-Mill: What is up with Wisconsin finding large white forwards with Polish last names? Are they grown in a field with 330 pound offensive linemen?
Phil: I'll take "Most Popular Questions Posed to Badger Bloggers" for $300, Travis.
One of Bo Ryan's best qualities as a coach is knowing what he wants in recruits and sticking to it. But he's made a decision that in his offense he wants bigs who can shoot, move their feet on defense, and want to work hard. It's true Ryan doesn't close on many blue chippers. But he (and his assistants) don't get enough credit for seeing these traits in guys early on and closing the deal. Also its a bit visionary to see ahead of time that basketball was moving towards these "stretch 4"-type players. Once you have success with a guy like Mike Wilkinson, then the track record starts to speak for itself: Brian Butch, Jon Leuer, Jared Berggren, and now Frank Kaminsky. Ryan's success rate is high, no doubt.
T-Mill: I know you said you don't know much about Purdue, but is there anything that scares you about this Boilermaker team, which has played surprisingly well in Madison of late?
Phil: I'm less worried now that you've said that typical Purdue halfcourt pressure defense isn't up to snuff this year. The wildcard is that even though the Boilers aren't good shooters, I can see them morphing into F*** It mode with the Johnson brothers and just relentlessly attacking the basket. Without even mentioning the foul trouble that could result, getting to the rim makes it a lot easier for guys like A.J. Hammons to grab offensive rebounds inside against Wisconsin. In the Badgers' biggest losses, they have been out-rebounded by a more aggressive team.