I am assuming tonight's game is still on despite most of the Midwest being turned into Hoth. Here in Indianapolis there was so much ice on my car this morning that it ripped the rubber right off of my windshield wipers when I chipped them out. It is supposed to get even worse tonight. As long as I don't lose power or cable and I am able to tune in at 7pm I'll be fine.
This should be an excellent game with lots of NCAA seeding potential. As I have said before, a Purdue victory likely leaves us as the only team with a chance to catch Ohio State, while a Wisconsin victory would give the Buckeyes a three game lead in the loss column. For our own sakes, we are in need of a quality road victory. The Badgers are the lone team on our road schedule that is currently in the top 25 (though Illinois is #24 in one poll). Win this, and we should be set up for a solid finish. I expect an even matchup that should result in a close game.
2009-10 record: 20-13, 10-8 Big Ten (Lost to Cornell 87-69 in second round of NCAA Tournament)
2010-11 record: 15-5, 5-3 Big Ten
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 103-63
Last Purdue win: 1/28/10 at Purdue 60-57
Last Wisconsin win: 1/9/10 at Wisconsin 73-66
Time & TV: 7pm ESPN
Very few teams have had success at the Kohl Center since Bo Ryan took over the Badger program. They are 73-6 at home all time under Ryan, but two of those six losses came to Purdue in 2008 and 2009. Last year was a coming out party for Jordan Taylor, as he had 23 points in the victory in Madison that knocked Purdue from the ranks of the unbeaten. We turned the tables at Mackey Arena, but Keaton Nankivil shot the lights out of the gym with 25 points on 7 of 8 shooting from long range.
That must be one of our first priorities tonight, as we did a good job of defending the perimeter against Minnesota. Nankivil loved playing against us. He seems to always shoot well, especially at Mackey Arena. While Nankivil leads the team in 3-point percentage at 50%, Taylor, Jon Leuer, and Tim Jarmusz also shoot the three regularly. This Wisconsin team is not as post-oriented as past teams. They do a good job of scoring from the perimeter, but they still have the size with players like Leuer to do work down low.
Leuer and Taylor are two players that are on the short list for all-Big Ten consideration when the season ends. Leuer was a first-team preseason all-conference with JaJuan Johnson and he hasn't disappointed. He averages 19.2 points per game, 6.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and he hits 45% of his 3-pointers. He is second on the team with 91 3-point attempts, and at 6'10" he is very difficult to defend on the perimeter.
Taylor has had a fantastic season, averaging 17.4 points per game and 4.5 assists. He is arguably the best point guard in the conference, but there are some very good ones with Demetri McCamey, Talor Battle, Lewis Jackson, and Kalin Lucas. Taylor can create his own shot or get the ball to Leuer and Nakivil for open shots. I expect to see Kelsey Barlow on him, but he doesn't have a huge size advantage on LewJack. Ryne Smith's defense might be handy here too since Barlow has more size to guard the 6'8" Nankivil.
That trio of Nankivil, Leuer, and Taylor will be difficult to slow down. These guys are not only good players, they take smart shots. Wisconsin is not a strong rebounding team, but they still exhibit the toughness that Bo Ryan's teams are known for. The scoring drops off after those three, but we are prone to letting unexpected players go off against us. That was Taylor last year in Madison.
An advantage we might have is that Ryan only plays about six players most of the time. Josh Gasser, Mike Bruesewitz, and Jarmusz draw the most minutes with the leading trio. Bruesewitz isn't a huge scoring threat, but he seems to be the next bruising Wisconsin forward that is a lot like a hockey enforcer. His stats aren't big, but he does work setting screens and freeing up others.
The battle between Leuer and Johnson will be interesting because neither player is afraid to play anywhere on the floor. I don't think one will be able to stop the other, so this could come down to a guard battle between Taylor and E`Twaun Moore. We know we're going to be in for a tough defensive contest, so expect this to be a major test of wills. If you're afraid to get on the floor after loose balls don't bother getting dressed for tonight's game.
I don't see either team as having a major advantage in any category. I like that Purdue has varied scoring after JJ and E'Twaun. LewJack has been playing well, while Ryne Smith went off in Saturday's second half. Improved play by Patrick Bade and Travis Carroll could play in here not from a scoring standpoint, but a rebounding standpoint. We have to force Wisconsin into difficult shots and limit second chance opportunities.
If we win this game we're going to have to do it with our depth. We can throw different defensive looks at their scorers, which should help us. When we have the ball we have to be patient and take shots within the flow of the offense. The more that LewJack and Rayneman can give us, the better.