Purdue and Wisconsin may not be the favorites to win the Big Ten, but this Game could have some relevance come bracket time since it’s the only time these teams play. Purdue will be fighting for legit road wins all season while Wisconsin just wants to get back on track after losing the last time it played at the Kohl Center.
Both teams have efficient offenses and both have had some high-scoring Games, but it’s hard to see this one not being lower scoring due to pace of play. Both rank near the bottom of the charts in terms of adjusted tempo with Wisconsin almost at the bottom. The offenses may be efficient, but usually when two slow teams play each other, it tends to be ugly, a la every Conference Game for Wisconsin. When these teams met last year in Madison, it was an ugly 57-53 win for the Badgers and in West LAfayette, Wisconsin only scored 50 points in a loss.
Wisconsin plays well when D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison are hitting shots from deep and that could be what separates these teams since Purdue allows 36.6% from deep, the worst rate in the Big Ten. Considering Trice and Davison both shoot better than 41% from three, that’s an issue for the Boilermakers. The other issue is trying to deal with Ethan Happ since he’s posting even better numbers as a senior with 19.3 points, 10.3 boards and 4.7 assists per Game. Everything runs through Happ and while Matt Haarms has a length advantage, that didn’t matter in last year’s meetings. Haarms wasn’t guarding him the entire time, but Happ still managed a combined 36 points, 18 boards and nine assists in two Games. If Haarms can use his length to limit the easy looks Happ gets and from setting up teammates, that’d be huge. Freshman big man Trevion Williams is coming off his best Game of the season so that could also help Purdue down low going forward.
It’ll also be interesting if Wisconsin tries to get 6-foot-11 Nate Reuvers more involved because he’ll have a decent size edge on anyone guarding him. OUtside of Haarms and Williams, Purdue doesn’t have a relevant player that’s taller than 6-foot-8. In fact, most lineups are composed of Haarms or Williams and Four guys that are 6-foot-6 and shorter. Reuvers isn’t a huge scorer, but with a decent size advantage, he could be put into more offensive situations. But that may not matter unless Purdue can keep up in the backcOurt and so far that’s been an issue.
Carsen Edwards is awesome on the offensive end, averaging 25.5 points per Game, but he isn’t a great defender and the other guys on the perimeter lack quickness. For Purdue to win on the road, someone other than Edwards needs to score. Edwards could reach his usual 25 points, but there’s no guarantee anyone else will Scoreand that’s why they’ve struggled on the road. Haarms still lacks any offensive Game while Ryan Cline is purely there to shoot threes. As the team’s second leading scorer at 12.6 ppg, that’s not exactly an easy thing to rely on, especially on the road. It doesn’t help Edwards that Wisconsin has two big bodies in the paint to give him trouble whenever he drives as Happ and Reuvers combined for 3.1 blocks per Game. Those aren’t huge numbers, but definitely something to think about.
Purdue’s ways to win on the road are few and far between and betting on that will be difficult having lost all Four true road Games this season. The Boilers may have an efficient offense overall, there’s no question that numbers going to drop in Conference play, already scoring 57 at Michigan, 60 against Maryland and most recently 59 at Michigan State. In an even slower Game, expect a possibly lower output with the trio of Happ, Davison and Trice being a little too much for a poor Purdue perimeter defense.
Our Pick – By Friday