I am in moving hell this weekend, so Zach will be handling the Wisconsin game for the most part. Still, Phil Mitten of Bucky's 5th Quarter wanted to do a Q&A in advance of Saturday, so here are his answers to my questions. Mine will be up at B5Q sometime on Friday.
T-Mill: Purdue just got Northwestern'd, but has done very well against Bo Ryan historically. Painter has won 3 times in Madison and Wisconsin has only two wins at Mackey Arena since 1972. Do the Badgers have a weakness vs. Purdue?
Phil: All the evidence points that way, doesn't it? Ignoring that historically Purdue was always better than Wisconsin until this millennium, I think part of the trouble I always see with this matchup is how physical the Boilermakers are on defense. Bo Ryan's teams have occasionally struggled with teams that extend pressure out past the 3-point line with quick, lengthy defenders. And Purdue usually has those type of players. That's why I wonder how the new defensive rules emphasis has affected how Matt Painter likes to teach defense.
T-Mill: What is it with Ryan grabbing tall, white guys with Polish names that lay waste to the Big Ten like Kaminsky? Is there a farm up there, much like where you keep getting 6'8" 340 run blockers?
Phil: What, you didn't know about that? They actually recycle the same guy, giving him plastic surgery every four years so no one wises up to it. And at night, they store him in a hyperbaric Forever Ware container like I saw one time in that old Erie, Indiana TV show.
I'll say this though, Frank Kaminsky needs to step up to an even higher level so as to reclaim his throne as the best Kaminsky/ski in the Big Ten ... that Kenny Kaminski character over at Michigan State had a nice little run shooting long bombs. The Badgers need Kaminsky to stay out of foul trouble against A.J. Hammons, and secondly, hit the boards much harder.
T-Mill: What has happened to Wisconsin of late to cause them so much struggle?
Phil: Wisconsin's defense fell apart. The defensive problems didn't start just when the team started losing, but they were covered up by a lot of scoring (oooh! ahh!) against lesser defensive teams. You can point at a few suspects, but really it's a team-wide issue. Josh Gasser's knee is not 100%. Sam Dekker is up and down. Freshmen pressed into the rotation are, well, making a few freshmen mistakes. And nobody can hedge well on a high ball screen. It's their kryptonite.
It speaks to the quality of the Big Ten that the Badgers have looked so bad against a few teams in the middle of the pack. Opposing coaches are attacking the interior defense relentlessly, as they should. Wisconsin's offense seems fine, but you gotta get stops.
T-Mill: In last year's game in Madison A.J. Hammons was quiet, but Sandi Marcius was big. What did Wisconsin do wrong in that game that gave an inconsistent Purdue team an advantage?
Phil: To this day, I still have no idea what happened in that game. Well, obviously D.J. Byrd happened, which was infuriating. Still, it's the only Senior Day loss ever under Bo Ryan and an unfortunate legacy left by the Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans, Mike Bruesewitz group.
Wisconsin got a comfortable lead early, but then started shooting (and missing) waaaay too many 3-pointers in a panic once Purdue made it's big run. It was a truly putrid offensive performance by the Badger big men in that game, which made the spotlight shine even brighter on the unheralded Sandi Marcius. He outworked everybody. People left the Kohl Center saying, "I wish we had a guy like that" and I'm sure Painter agreed because Marcius finished the year out strong. Marcius, Byrd and the Boilers proved they had much more heart and tenacity than the Badgers that day.
T-Mill: Will you please stop running the ball down our throats in football?
Phil: No. I don't think Barry Alvarez will ever allow that, and he's in charge of the universe now, you know.
T-Mill: A prediction?
Phil: There's no reason to think that Wisconsin will stop this mysterious skid on the road in West Lafayette. If they do, I think it'll be because Purdue just misses shots that other teams are hitting. That's totally possible I suppose, but even though their offense isn't that great, I see the Boilers squeaking out a win honestly.