Among Purdue’s three losses in conference play, the loss at Wisconsin might sting the most. At least Ohio State was a ranked team when they won at Purdue. Michigan State was on the road and they were also really good. Wisconsin was actually pretty terrible for most of last season. They missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998. We had beaten them with ease in West Lafayette, but had our collective worst game of the year in a 57-53 loss.
We should have won that game by 15 points, easily, but it was a really, really poor game all around. It ended up costing us a share of the Big Ten title. This year Wisconsin is better, but given Purdue’s success in Madison over the years compared to other teams in the conference, a win over the Badgers would be a great pickup for our NCAA profile.
In fact, I think this is a make or break game for us.
From: Madison, Wisconsin
Date: Friday January 11, 2019
Tip Time: 9 p.m. ET
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Arena: Kohl Center (17,230)
Television: Fox Sports 1
Online: Fox Sports Go
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
2017-18 Record: 15-18, 7-11 Big Ten
2018-19 Record: 11-4, 3-1 Big Ten
Opponent Blog: Bucky’s 5th Quarter
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 109-70
Last Wisconsin Win: 57-53 on 2/15/2018 at Wisconsin
Last Purdue Win: 78-50 on 1/16/2018 at Purdue
NCAA Tournament History: 23 appearances, last in 2017, 1941 NCAA Champion
Coach: Greg Gard (68-40 in 4th Season)
After the worst season in two decades Wisconsin is back among the conference’s best teams this year. They are off to a 3-1 league start after winning at Penn State Sunday night, but they lost at home to Minnesota last Thursday. In their December Big Ten games they won at Iowa and beat Rutgers are home. In the non-conference they got a very good home win over NC State in the ACC/Big TenTen Challenge as well as a neutral court win over Oklahoma. They also won at Xavier.
Their losses aren’t horrible, either. They lost to Virginia in the Battle 4 Atlantis title game and in overtime at Marquette. They also lost at Western Kentucky in a return game from last year. That has their computer numbers on par with our own. Their NET ranking (which I will start using at the suggestion of many yesterday) is a solid 19.
This will be a battle of Big Ten Player of the Year candidates as senior Ethan Happ is one of the favorites with our own Carsen Edwards. Happ is averaging 19.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 4.7 assist per game as a dominant big man. He is having the best year of his career and his assist numbers are at a career high. He has become pretty much a human double-double.
D’Mitrik Trice (14.3 ppg) and Brad Davison (10.3 ppg) compliment Happ and their inside-out game. It really is simple to see what Wisconsin does because they have done it for years. They try to get Happ good looks inside and both Davison and Trice are ready to shoot open threes if there is a double. Trice is shooting 46.5% from three and Davison is at 41.8%. Davison is also a solid defender with 1.3 steals per game.
The Badgers then have a bunch of solid role players. Nate Reuvers, Brevin Pritzl, Kobe King, and Khalil Iverson averages between 4 and 8 points per game. They are in the middle of the conference in scoring, but third defensively at 62.2 points per game. After Michigan State beat us because of offensive rebounding and threes after offensive rebounds this game is a concern. Wisconsin is second in the conference only to Michigan State in three-point shooting. Fortunately, they are the worst offensive rebounding team in the conference.
The truth is that if Purdue is going to make the NCAA Tournament it is going to have to start winning some games like this. Wisconsin is a good team, but they are probably on par with Texas and Notre Dame as opposed to elite like a Michigan or Michigan State. We desperately need one of these games to go in our favor. With a couple of home games following this we have a chance to go on a small run if we can win this. A good road win would give us a boost of confidence, too.