Wisconsin has already spoiled Purdue's shot at history by ending their 14 game winning streak.
Tomorrow, Wisconsin would like to twist the knife and spoil Purdue's (diminishing) chances of a Big Ten title.
Unfortunately for Wisconsin, the rims in Mackey Arena will not be as kind as they are at Kohl Center.
Adam from Bucky's 5th Quarter talks about Wisconsin's confidence, the impact of Jon Leuer's injury, and the Big Ten race. Oh yeah, also the game against the Boilermakers.
PBB: After the home scare against Penn State, how would you describe the overall confidence of Wisconsin heading into West Lafayette?
B5Q: Honestly, I think the confidence level is right where it was at before the Michigan and Penn State debacles last week. In fact, this might sound weird, but it might even be higher. The Badgers played 108 straight minutes of horrible basketball (at Ohio State, vs. Michigan and the first 38 minutes against Penn State) and then put together 16 minutes of the kind of basketball we haven't seen since Jon Leuer got hurt. Trailing 52-36 with just over 11 minutes to go against the Nittany Lions, it looked like Bo Ryan was going to suffer his worst home Big Ten loss ever. But the Badgers went on a 43-19 run to finish the game and won 79-71 in overtime. More importantly, two starters who have been invisible since Leuer went out -- Keaton Nankivil and Jordan Taylor -- took over the game and provided the production Wisconsin needs if it wants to even think about staying in the Big Ten race.
PBB: What is the difference between the Wisconsin that handed Duke and Purdue their first losses of the season versus the Wisconsin team that fell to GG Phoenix, Gonzaga, and almost PSU? Are their any common factors among the losses?
B5Q:Yes, there is one very simple and obvious common factor among Green Bay, Gonzaga and Penn State: Those are the only three teams who have scored 70 or more points against the Badgers this season. Now, the Zags scoring 74 points on Wisconsin isn't a big deal, but when you consider that the Badgers have held nine teams (including four Big Ten teams) to 50 or fewer points this season --- the most of any team in the nation -- it's mindboggling how Green Bay and Penn State were able to score at will. And it's hard to explain how they did it. Maybe the Badgers relaxed a little bit on defense, but the bottom line is that Green Bay and Penn State just made shots.
PBB: With Jon Leuer out with the wrist injury (regretfully sustained against Purdue), who do you see matching up against JaJuan Johnson and how do you see that battle playing out? Also, who do you see primarily guarding E'Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummel and how do you see those match-ups panning out?
B5Q:Well JJ is definitely a concern, but as long as Keaton Nankivil stays out of foul trouble, I think he is up for the challenge. Otherwise, Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz will see some playing time off the bench and guard Johnson. Ideally, Evans will be coming off the bench to guard Hummel, like he did in the first meeting between these two teams. Tim Jarmusz will start on Hummel and after what has been mostly a down year on defense for Jarmusz, he has really stepped it up in the last couple of games. Jordan Taylor and Trevon Hughes will switch off an Moore, depending on the foul situation.
PBB: I'm going to put you on the spot. With 10 games to go, Wisconsin plays two tough games (Purdue and MSU) and following that, their remaining schedule softens up a little. ( The remaining teams have a combined 25-27 Big Ten record as of 1/26) Where in the Big Ten do you see the Badgers landing on March 7th?
B5Q: Well I think there are at least four losses in there between going to Purdue, Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois and hosting Michigan State. Maybe that is harsh, but a lot of it will depend on when Jon Leuer returns. That would be six Big Ten losses -- a solid record, but one that will make Leuer and the Badgers asking "what if?".
PBB: What seed do you feel Wisconsin deserves (thus far) and how deep into the tournament do you see them going (realistically?)
B5Q:I think they are a No. 5 seed right now with the team they have. I'm a little confused at how Wisconsin could climb in the rankings after two horrible wins. But wins they were and that is how the rankings work. If Jon Leuer returns in 2 to 4 weeks as my sources have told me, UW could end up as high as a No. 3 seed and make a run to the Sweet 16. There are two things we know about Bo Ryan's teams in March: 1) His players always get better throughout the season so they are always tough to beat and 2) His teams rarely surprise the big boys in the NCAA Tournament. Their Elite Eight run in 2005 happened because the highest seed they had to beat was a No. 7.
Bonus: What is your prediction of the outcome in West Lafayette?
B5Q:Purdue wins 71-59
Thanks Adam for sharing your insights. Be sure to check him at at Bucky's 5th Quarter.