After a pair of road games Purdue returns to the friendly confines of Mackey Arena tonight. I have to admit that I feel supremely confident about any game in the Dungeon of Noise that is Mackey. Purdue has won 18 consecutive games on Keady Court. This senior class is 57-6 at home overall and 52-3 in its last 55 games since losing to Maryland on January 10, 2015 when they were freshman. They have lost just three times in Big Ten play: to Maryland in 2015, to Iowa after blowing a 20 point halftime lead in 2016, and last season in overtime to Minnesota.
Yes, they have come a very long way since losing to Gardner Webb and North Florida as freshmen.
It really feels like a 9-0 Big Ten run at home is possible, meaning a 6-3 road record would probably be enough for our 24th Big Ten Championship. We’re halfway to those six wins, and five of the remaining six road games are against sub-100 RPI teams. It’s not like we have been horrid on the road, either.
While it is fun to think about, we still have 12 games left in the regular season. We cannot take anything for granted. As we learned last year, someone like a Nate Mason can play out of his mind to shock us almost single-handedly in Mackey or we can have an unexpected road loss like last year at Iowa and Nebraska. Tonight is like many other nights coming up. Purdue needs to stay focused and take care of business.
From: Madison, Wisconsin
Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Tip Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
2016-17 Record: 27-10, 12-6 Big Ten (lost to Florida 84-83 in NCAA Sweet 16)
2017-18 Record: 9-9, 2-3 Big Ten
Opponent Blog: Bucky’s 5th Quarter
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 108-69
Last Wisconsin Win: 71-51 on 3/14/2015 in Big Ten Tournament at Chicago
Last Purdue Win: 66-55 on 1/8/2017 at Purdue
NCAA Tournament History: 23 appearances, last in 2017, 1941 NCAA Champion
Coach: Greg Gard (51-27 in 3rd Season)
We may be witnessing the end of a very impressive run for Wisconsin basketball. The Badgers have famously finished in the top 4 of the conference standings every year since 2001. The only time they have had to play on Thursday of the Big Ten Tournament in that time was two years ago, when they still finished tied with Purdue, Maryland, and Iowa for 3rd, but the tiebreaker gave them the No. 6 seed.
The 16 year run of top 4 league finishes is really impressive, but it seems likely to be done this year. In that run there have been 3 Big Ten Tournament titles, 4 regular season championships, and a pair of Final Fours. They are already 2-3 in conference play and have several tough games left. They also haven’t looked the same as the threatening Badger teams of old. Ohio State beat them by 25 in Madison, and the Badgers never lose by 25 in Madison. At 9-9 their streak of 19 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances is also in jeopardy.
That gives them a sense of desperation tonight headed to West Lafayette. It doesn’t help that Purdue features the Big Ten’s second best offense at 85 points per game, and Wisconsin is the second worst offense at 69.1 per game. Purdue also happens to be pretty good defensively, holding teams to 62.7 points per game and they just held Minnesota to 47 points on its home floor.
The Badgers have been without D’Mitrik Trice (9.4 ppg, 2.3 apg) and Kobe King (5.2 ppg) for a while now. That has made their back court quite thin. Brad Davison, a 6’3” freshman, has been their best guard. He is averaging 12.1 points and 2.3 assists while shooting nearly 38% from three. His last three games have been solid to, with 15 points against Nebraska last week in a four point loss.
The Badgers do have an all-Big Ten caliber post player in Ethan Happ, and he has had to do pretty much everything. He is averaging 16.8 points (4th in the league) and 8.6 rebounds (4th in the league). He also leads the team in assists at 3.4 as he has tried to make everything happen. He is still a liability at the free throw line (52.3%), but the 6’10” junior has delivered everywhere else.
Brevin Pritzl (8.8 ppg) and Khalil Iverson (8.2) have been solid complimentary guards, but Happ is their only real post threat. Aleem Ford and Nate Reuvers have done a fair job as backups, but this is a team with one post threat and two of its best guards injured. On the perimeter they are 12th in the league with only 119 made 3-pointers, ahead of just Indiana and Rutgers. This shows how much they rely on Happ.
If Purdue has had a weakness this year it has been at offensive rebounding, but the Badgers are dead last in offensive rebounding in the conference. In fact, they are last in rebounding overall, which is a rare trait for them. Wisconsin is also 13th in assists at 12.8 per game and they are the worst defensive team in the league in terms of FG% at 45.8%. Considering Purdue is second in the league in field goal percentage (50%) and first in 3-point percentage (41.5%) this looks like a disastrous matchup for the Badgers.
Really, this is about as confident as I have felt in playing Wisconsin in a long time. Purdue is playing at home against a short-handed team that relies heavily on one post player. Should Happ get in foul trouble Isaac Haas is going to feast all night long. One thing that does give me pause is that Wisconsin has managed to keep many of their losses close. They played tight games with Temple, Baylor, and UCLA. They also did something Purdue has not done this year: beat Western Kentucky. Sure, it took a massive assist from the officials late, but they have a win over one of the very few teams to beat Purdue. Against every other common opponent they have had some ugly losses. Marquette beat them by 19 at home and they just lost at Rutgers by 4. Even Chicago State, the team Purdue annihilated by 69 points, only lost to Wisconsin by 12.
This should be a Purdue win. We cannot take anything for granted, however. The Boilers are humming like a finely tuned machine and there is all this “best in the nation” talk going now. It only takes one bad night to derail that, and it has been a while since we have had the infamous bad night. I don’t think it will happen in Mackey though. Purdue 86, Wisconsin 66