Here is the big one. After Sunday’s game against Wisconsin Purdue has an excellent chance to make some hay in the Big Ten race. We go to Iowa (A team we have already beaten by 22 and it wasn’t even that close) before hosting Illinois and Penn State. We should be favored in each of those games. After that, it is back-to-back trips to Big Ten leaders Michigan State and… Nebraska? What?
Anyway, Purdue gets a relative breather here after Wisconsin and before a nasty stretch of four road dates in five games. It is the only meeting with the Badgers, who were the prohibitive favorites to win the league before the season and so far they have done nothing to make people think they won’t be there all year. A win gives Purdue the tiebreaker in terms of Big Ten Tournament seeding, but more importantly it is a quality victory that will greatly help our NCAA profile. There is also that whole drive for a 23rd Big Ten championship.
From: Madison, Wisconsin
Date: Sunday, January 8, 2017
Tip Time: 4:30 p.m. ET
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Online: CBS Sports
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: No line yet
2015-16 Record: 22-13, 12-6 Big Ten (lost in NCAA Sweet 16 to Notre Dame 61-56
2016-17 Record: 13-2, 2-0 Big Ten
Opponent Blog: Bucky’s 5th Quarter
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 107-69
Last Wisconsin Win: 71-51 on 3/14/2015 in Big Ten Tournament at Chicago
Last Purdue Win: 91-80 on 3/6/2016 at Purdue
NCAA Tournament History: 24 Appearances (18 consecutive), 1941 National Champion
With 18 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances Wisconsin has been one of the most consistent teams in the nation over the last two decades. In that time they have made eight Sweet 16s, four Elite 8s, and three Final Fours. This is all after not going to the tournament at all between 1947 and 1994.
It was that near five decade layoff that allowed Purdue to put up some impressive streaks against the Badgers. For example: Mackey Arena opened 50 years ago this year. It has been a house of horror for the Badgers. They are only 4-38 all-time in Mackey. Here are there wins:
2/15/1972: 84-65 (Purdue finished 12-12, 6-8 in the B1G)
1/5/2005: 77-68 (Purdue finished 7-21, 3-13 in the B1G in Gene Keady’s last season)
1/12/2012: 67-62 (Purdue finished 22-13, 10-8 in the B1G and reached the NCAA 2nd round)
1/25/2014: 72-58 (Purdue finished 15-17, 5-13 in the B1G)
Even with that dominance in West Lafayette the Badgers have been a nemesis in recent years. Near the beginning of this run of success they denied Gene Keady his Final Four with a 64-60 win over Purdue in the 2000 Elite 8 (their 3rd win in 4 games vs. Purdue that year). They are also 2-0 against Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament. Their steadfast refusal to lose to anyone other than Purdue in 2008 also cost Purdue a Big Ten title as they went 16-2 with two losses to the Boilers, but Purdue was 15-3.
Purdue will need to maintain its Mackey arena hex over the Badgers on Sunday, as this is another solid Wisconsin team. They are not as dominant as the one that came close to winning it all two seasons ago, but it is a team that can win the Big Ten and reach the second weekend of the tournament again. They enter this one at 13-2 with losses against the best two teams they have played: Creighton and North Carolina. They won a pair of nice games out in Maui over Tennessee and Georgetown, as well as at Marquette. They enter coming off of a road win at Indiana and a home win over Rutgers.
The Badgers had high expectations because everyone returned from last year’s roster. That’s good in the sense that they reached the Sweet 16, but this is still a team Purdue beat twice last season. They have a clear big three of Bronson Koenig (14.3 ppg), Nigel Hayes (13.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg), and Ethan Happ (13.1 ppg, 9.4 rpg). Happ would be the best big man in the conference in any other year, but Caleb Swanigan’s numbers dwarf his. Happ is still very good with a soft touch around the basket. He is shooting 67.2% from the floor.
It is disappointing that Wisconsin does not have its traditional 6’9” white guy with a Polish surname lacking in vowels that serves to hit threes and dish out pain on screens. Vitto Brown serves that role well though even if he lacks the Polish name. He is a versatile 6’8” forward averaging 7.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and he shoots 34.5% from three. Brown, Hayes, Koenig, and Zak Showalter give them an excellent senior core that has experience at the highest levels. They have played for teams that have won Big Ten titles and reached Final Fours. You won’t intimidate them.
One guy to keep an eye on is freshman guard D’Mitrick Trice. He is small at only 6’, but he is shooting 54.3% from three (19 of 35). Khalil Iverson also provides some solid minutes off the bench.
This should be a great matchup because Happ gives the Badgers the size to match up well with Purdue. The Badgers rebound well, so every missed shot will be a battle. There may not be a lot of missed shots because Wisconsin is third in the conference in shooting behind Indiana and Purdue. Also, the Badgers get it done defensively. They allow a league best 58.8 points per game, which is much better than Purdue’s 65.4. Wisconsin and Purdue are also the two best rebounding teams in the league.
So that’s what we have on Sunday. It is going to be a Big Ten classic and the Paint Crew will be back at Mackey. I will be there too. If Purdue is going to win the Big Ten title this season winning this game would be a great idea.