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The Three Pointer: Purdue vs. Wisconsin

The Boilers travel to Madison for a chance to take sole possession of the B1G

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Nebraska Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

The Purdue Boilermakers travel to take on the Wisconsin Badgers in what will likely be the biggest game of the B1G season as both programs sit atop the conference standings. Although Purdue has played an extra game at this point in the season, both teams sit with two losses and the two head to head matchups will likely determine the outcome of the regular season title. Purdue will be continuing to play for the number one overall seed come selection Sunday while the Badgers are looking to elevate their resume into consideration for a one seed.

The Badgers are led by St. John’s transfer AJ Storr who is playing at an All B1G level along with big man Steven Crowl. Wisconsin plays at one of the slower paces in the B1G as they rank 318th in adjusted tempo on Kenpom while having one of the best offenses in the country at 7th in adjusted offense. Wisconsin has one of the better defenses in the B1G ranking 32nd in the country but ranking 6th in the B1G behind Rutgers, Maryland, Michigan State, Purdue, and Illinois. Wisconsin does not do a good job of defending the three point line and has one of the weaker interior defenses in the B1G. Both of those are areas Purdue can take advantage of on the road in the Kohl’s Center.

Let’s get into ‘The Three Pointer!’

1 | Control the Tempo & Pace of the Game Early

The Kohl Center is an absolute monster of a home venue for the Badgers. Purdue has fared better than any other B1G program going 6-10 over the previous 20 years. The Kohl Center is similar to Mackey Arena in that the noise can shake and rattle a team if an opponent can’t withstand that early onslaught from a Badger team that has shown itself to be much more proficient on the offensive end than in recent years.

Purdue, so far, has done a good job of starting games out well offensively but has recently had some struggles on the defensive end in containing shooters and trailing ball handlers in on ball action in the center of the floor. It is never easy on the road in the B1G but Purdue will likely need to withstand at least one major run from the Badgers if they want to escape with a victory. That run just can’t come early in the game where it leaves the Boilers down by double digits against a team who is comfortable playing at a slow pace and limiting possessions (similar to Northwestern).

2 | Get on the Glass

The matchup that may very well determine the outcome of this game will be on the glass. Wisconsin isn’t an elite rebounding team but they do one of the better jobs in the country at limiting scoring opportunities for opponents by shutting them off on the offensive glass. The Badgers have given up only 150 total offensive rebounds all season through 21 games for just 7.14 per game. On the other hand, Purdue has averaged almost 12 per game which ranks them first in the B1G. That is a matchup where Zach Edey has an abundance of an advantage against a team that doesn’t have anyone to matchup with him from a size perspective (Steven Crowl is 7’ but weighs just 217 pounds).

Wisconsin will likely use a double box out like many opponents have against Edey to put bodies around him to disrupt him from getting offensive rebounds and limiting Purdue’s effectiveness at second chance points. Purdue can counter that by getting good rebounding numbers from Mason Gillis, Trey Kaufman-Renn, and Caleb Furst. Those second chance opportunities against a team that will look to slow the game down and use their efficiency to their advantage on the offensive end could be the difference. On the road, Purdue needs to get to their average and maybe a few more to grab an important victory.

3 | Limit the Scoring from Guys Other Than AJ Storr

Storr is a damn good player and has shown it throughout the year following his transfer from St. John’s. Storr has averaged 18.5 points this seasons and gone for 28 in back to back games against Michigan State and Nebraska. Those are both just one point shy of his season high against Chicago State. He is a big guard at 6’6 who can shoot over smaller defenders from outside and connects on 33% of his three point shots.

Although I toyed with the idea of placing Crowl here, once I began digging a bit deeper and noticed he has only hit more than one shot from the arc in a game twice this season and struggles to score near the rim, that was a matchup that suddenly didn’t look as bad for Edey to handle on his own.

Klesmit is probably the biggest scoring threat for the Badgers as he is a guard who has the capabilities of scoring 20 or more points in a game as he has hit that mark on three occasions this season. He is also shooting 41.4% from behind the arc on season but in B1G games that percentage jumps to an eye opening 47.8% on 46 attempts. That would be similar to Fletcher Loyer this season for the Boilers as he has shot 51.1% on 45 attempts and we all know how good Purdue’s offense tends to look when Loyer’s offense is cooking at peak performance. Limiting him from his sudden offensive outbursts that can galvanize a home crowd should be imperative.

Purdue just doesn’t have the defensive ability to put the clamps on any one guy but what they can do is limit the scoring from other options that the Badgers have. Not letting players like Connor Essegian come off the bench and hit three or four three pointers is a great start (although he is only averaging seven minutes per game this season he is shooting 50% from behind the arc on 20 attempts. Meaning, he is walking onto the court ready to shoot). If Purdue can limit the scoring from the other guys to under their season averages, they stand a good chance at winning.

And 1 | Get to the Foul Line and Make Your Free Throws

Purdue is one of the best teams in the country at getting to the free throw line and that is largely due to Zach Edey. No matter what any idiot on Twitter might say, Edey is fouled almost every possession on offense and sometimes multiple times throughout a single possession. It isn’t Edey’s fault that opponents don’t have a player who can matchup with him without fouling, nor is it his fault that a referee will often not call the first or second foul but will wait until Edey has gone through his shooting motion to call a some what questionable call. The game may very well come down to how the referees are willing to call the game and how Purdue will adjust to that level of play.

It does Purdue no good, however, if they get to the free throw line and don’t convert those chances. Against Northwestern, Purdue got a good whistle (although I would argue it still wasn’t a fair whistle considering the Wildcats fouled a lot more than what they were called for) but they didn’t convert their chances going just 29-46 (63%). The looks a lot better than the 20-36 (55%) they had prior to the overtime where Lance Jones went 5-6 and Mason Gillis went 4-4 (in fact, Gillis went 8-8 on the game). Purdue simply can’t afford to be missing out on opportunities to score when on the road and they likely need to generate 15 points from the free throw line against the Badgers.

Players to Watch:

AJ Storr | #2 | Guard | Sophomore | 6’6 200lbs | 16.5 pts, 3.5 rebs, 1 ast, 33% 3pt

The big transfer guard originally from Rockford, IL transferred from St. John’s (NY) to be closer to home and that move has benefitted him greatly. He is averaging 16.5 points per game which places him 9th best in the conference.

Max Klesmit | #11 | Guard | Junior | 6’3 180lbs | 10 pts, 1.9 reb, 1.3 ast, 41.4% 3pt

Another transfer guard, the Junior from Wofford has shown an ability to be a scoring threat with multiple big time bursts throughout the season. Last game against Nebraska, the guard had a singular run of 11 points by himself that saw him go 3-3 from behind the arc. He has scored more than 20 points in a game on three different occassions this season.

Steven Crowl | #22 | Forward | Junior | 7’ 217 lbs | 11.4 pts,7.8 rebs, 2.4 ast, 48.3% 3pt (14-49)

A seven footer who has shown an ability to step outside the arc to be a stretch interior player can present a problem for the Boilermakers. Rienk Mast exposed some defensive issues for the Boilermakers when they faced Nebraska and Crowl is a player similar in that mold. Although he may not be the overall playmaker that Mast is, Crowl is another one of those Wisconsin big men who does a little bit of everything for the Badgers as he scores, rebounds, and sets his teammates up in the offense. He isn’t going to protect the rim well and Purdue may find success getting into the interior of the Badger defense and he doesn’t score particularly well from a low post position.

Prediction:

This is going to be a heck of a ball game and given a limited lineup today on a Sunday with no football until next week, there will be a lot of eyes on a B1G matchup that has the #6 Badgers player the #2 Boilers with last year’s NPOY. The Kohl Center is a difficult place to play but the Boilers have seemingly played well there over the years and some of that may be getting to play at Mackey Arena themselves and learning to play through that level of noise and disruption. Can the Boilers get a W against the Badgers? I do believe that they can.

Purdue: 76
Wisconsin: 74