Preview & Prediction: By Blake Hofstad
#17 Purdue (4-2, 15-4) has overcome a few early season hiccups to find itself right in the running for the top spot in the Big Ten. A sweep of Wisconsin (3-4, 12-7) wouldn’t mean as much as it did last year, but would mean a lot in the long run. Wisconsin is underwater and sinking at the moment. A win here would have them breaking the surface. Many Wisconsin fans agree, a loss would likely mean the end of a NCAA Tournament streak that has spanned ten years. Last time these teams met, Purdue was trying to avoid falling to 0-3 in conference play. They have won 4 straight, and aren’t looking back. Wisconsin was 3-0, and trying to stay atop the conference. Now they are 3-4, and struggling to stay at .500.
Purdue beat Wisconsin at Mackey Arena by out-hustling them on the boards and making open shots. That started with JaJuan Johnson. The lanky Johnson used his length to gobble up 10 rebounds and dominate Wisconsin in the paint, going 8-10 from the field and scoring 20 points. If he has a duplicate performance, Purdue will win again. Robbie Hummel was deadly from beyond the arc, chipping in 16 off the bench. His accuracy from deep caused all sorts of matchup problems. E’Twaun Moore, the tall point guard and leading scorer, had a terrible day, but it was offset by bad outings from nearly every Badger. However, at the Kohl Center, don’t expect Wisconsin to shoot six free throws. Moore will have to elevate his game on the road. A big contributor off the bench for the Boilermakers in that game was Marcus Green. Against the shorter Badger squad, Green feasted on the boards and provided some excellent minutes. Defensive stopper Chris Kramer didn’t make much of a dent on the scoreboard with his four points, but his inspired play helped fire up the Boilers as well as stall the Badger offense. He may be the X-factor in Madison, as there will be no home crowd to get the Boilers pumped. Being the captain, he will have to lead by example. Nemanja Calasan only scored four points, but he helped Purdue jump out to an early lead. That lead was crucial, because they never looked back. Some of the guys who had great games at Mackey, like Johnson, may not play as well on the road. But don’t expect E’Twaun Moore to go 1-12 from the field again either.
For all those that watch Wisconsin basketball games, it’s apparent why they lose. They can’t defend quick cutters to the basket, as they don’t have a dominant interior defender. Keaton Nankivil is good, but he is not so much of an offensive threat. Joe Krabbenhoft and Marcus Landry are good, but undersized. They can’t make shots considered bunnies, either. Never has a team missed as many easy shots as this one. The most consistent Badger will have to have a great game, and that is Krabbenhoft. He steadily pumps in around nine a game while snagging seven rebounds. He also knocks down his open shots. He is not known for being the go-to-guy, but he will have to in this game. Marcus Landry, Trevon Hughes and Jon Leuer cannot go missing in action as they did at Mackey. Hughes especially has not been playing well lately, turning the ball over more often than usual and missing a lot of shots. One player who has proven himself unreliable in recent games is Jason Bohannon. He is a streaky shooter, and right now he is in a funk. Until he works out of that, he should be playing less minutes, especially with Jordan Taylor performing at a high level.
This is a must-win game for the Badgers. On their home floor with a ton of pressure riding on them, this could mean their season. They can win this game, if they keep their composure and capitalize on open looks.
Winner: Wisconsin Margin: 2-5 points
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About Blake Hofstad
An avid sports fan, you can nearly always find Blake Hofstad playing, watching, writing or just talking sports. His favorite team is the Wisconsin Badgers, and he is a huge Big Ten and Missouri Valley fan. The two things he hates about college basketball are Duke and the love Duke gets from most media members. You can find more of Blake's work on Onlinesportsfanatic.com.