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#14 Purdue at Wisconsin: Preview, Odds, & How to Watch

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Purdue kicks off the Big Ten season by heading to Wisconsin.

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We're finally to the Big Ten season, where the tension rises and the games matter more. After a few disappointing seasons and last year's wild ride it is a relief to go into the conference season assures of at least an NCAA Tournament berth barring a collapse. In fact, Purdue is going in search of its record 23rd regular season conference championship. Earning said championship often follows the same path: defend your home court relentlessly and try to win at least five on the road. Assuming Purdue can stay unbeaten at home it means a 5-4 record away from Mackey Arena might be enough.

To get those five wins the Big Ten was kind enough to give the Boilers road games at Nebraska, Rutgers, and Minnesota, three of the weakest teams in the league. Purdue can also take a major step forward tonight when it faces a Wisconsin team that has struggled all year long after coming close to winning last season's national title.

Opponent

Wisconsin Badgers

Location:

Madison, WI

Date:

12/29/2015

Venue:

Kohl Center (17,230), Madison, WI

TV:

Big Ten Network

Radio Stream:

TuneIn

Satellite Radio:

SIRI 136, XM

Odds:

Purdue by 6

Tickets:

As low as $53 on Stubhub

Tipoff:

7pm

KenPom Ranking:

56 of 351

RPI:

91

Blog Representation:

Bucky's 5th Quarter

2015-16 Record:

8-5

All-time series

Purdue leads 105-69

Last Purdue win:

69-56 at Wisconsin on 3/3/2013

Last Wisconsin Win:

71-51 in Chicago (B1G Tourney) on 3/14/15

2014-15 Record:

36-4, 16-2 Big Ten (Big Ten Champions, Big Ten Tourney Champions, NCAA Runner-Up)

Last NCAA appearance:

2015 (23 appearances) NCAA Champion 1941

Coach:

Greg Gard (1-0 in 1st year at Wisconsin)

In what was supposed to be Bo Ryan's final season things have not gone according to plan. The Badgers opened the year with a stunning loss to Western Illinois and have since dropped games to Georgetown, Oklahoma, Milwaukee, and Marquette. The Kohl Center is no longer a fortress with the WIU, Milwaukee, and Marquette losses coming at home. The Badgers have also barely squeezed by Green Bay and VCU, but they earned a very nice road win at Syracuse in the B1G/ACC Challenge.

If you look at their record and profile they are not too dissimilar to Purdue at this point last year. There is some talent there and a chance to right the ship in Big Ten play, but when Bo Ryan walked away after beating Texas A&M-Corpus Christi it put the season into even more flux. Now long-time assistant Greg Gard has to go into B1G play with all of one game of head coach experience. At least he gets Rutgers this weekend.

What has really hurt the Badgers this year is their shooting. They are awful. Wisconsin is shooting 41.8% from the field as a team, good for 268th nationally out of 351 teams. Only Minnesota and Penn State are shooting worse as Big Ten teams. Purdue has played worse shooting teams, but they are IUPUI and Howard.

Wisconsin's two biggest returnees, Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig, combined to average 30 points per game, but Hayes is shooting 38.4% from the field and Koenig is at 40.4%. Purdue's rebounding will need to be better than it was against Butler for sure because there will be ample second chance opportunities if it is not. Koenig is at least shooting 37.3% from three.

In the middle Ethan Happ, a 6'9" freshman has the unenviable task of trying to defend and score on A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas. Happ is averaging 11.5 points and 8.3 rebounds during a solid debut season, but he has not faced anyone like Hammons and Haas yet. Despite the poor shooting the Badgers have a fourth player in double figures in Vitto Brown at 10.4 points per game.

After Brown the scoring drops off considerably. Zak Showalter averages 7.7 per game, but no one else is over 4. Brown, Hayes, and regular rotation man Charlie Thomas are all shooting under 40% too. Showalter, Hayes, and Koenig are decent three-point shooters, but Purdue has the luxury of Haas/Hammons defending Happ one on one, so we should be able to get out on their shooters.

Honestly, there is never going to be a better time to win in the Kohl Center and Purdue already plays better there than most of the Big Ten. Matt Painter's teams have won their three times including a shocking win on Senior Day in 2013. That Purdue team was much worse and that Wisconsin team was much better than their current incarnations. This is still a proud program with talented players though, and nothing is ever easy in the Big Ten. Shoot, even Rutgers beat Wisconsin last year.

I expect a Purdue victory tonight. The size advantage in the post is big and Purdue should be able to defend the perimeter. If Purdue's shooters can get on track and have a better game than the 2 of 19 form three performance against Vanderbilt I just don't see how the Badgers can stop the Haas/Hammons duo inside. That's before you have Caleb Swanigan also giving them problems.