The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team (12-7, 5-3 Big Ten) will start a brief two-game road trip in West Lafayette, Indiana for a matchup with the Purdue Boilermakers (10-9, 3-5).
The Badgers have confused fans all year long, no one quite knows what to make of this team yet. But their important win over Nebraska Tuesday night has them inching closer and closer to the AP Top 25.
With a record of 5-2 in their last seven games, Wisconsin seems to be picking up steam as Big Ten wins become increasingly more important.
Purdue may not be one of the top programs in the Big Ten this year, but they play extremely well at home, posting an 8-2 record inside the Mackey Arena.
On top of that, it may be easy for the Badgers to overlook a young Boilermaker team with ranked opponents like No. 19 Iowa and No. 11 Michigan State on the horizon.
A duo of sophomores, Trevion Williams and Eric Hunter Jr., lead the way for Purdue in the scoring column. Williams is a 6-foot-9-inch, 270-pound forward averaging 11.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
Hunter Jr. averages 10 points, 3.4 assists and 3.1 rebounds, all while shooting the deep ball at a 45.7% clip.
At the center position, Purdue pairs Williams, who is massive in his own right, with 7-foot-3-inch Dutchman Matt Haarms. The junior big man pitches in 10 points, 5.9 rebounds and most importantly, 2.2 blocks per contest.
The Williams-Haarms frontcourt will certainly cause problems for Nate Reuvers and Micah Potter. Reuvers may be forced to play on the perimeter, where his touch allows him to at least keep defenders honest. But even then, it still means Purdue will most likely dominate the boards.
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On Wisconsin’s end, you can expect Greg Gard to continue to emphasize team offense. The Badgers have seven players averaging at least 7.4 points per game, with Reuvers out in front at 14 ppg.
Just behind Reuvers is redshirt sophomore Kobe King, who at times has looked like exactly what the Badgers need to be real contenders come March. Especially if his three-ball is on — currently just 25% — King may look to take control over the next few games as competition stiffens.
Another key for Thursday night will be Aleem Ford, whose height should help neutralize the size discrepancy, but also has a streaky jumper that can explode at any moment and change the game. If Ford can get hot and stay on the floor, he’ll throw a wrench in the Boilermakers’ plans.
Expect a slow, low-scoring game where both teams look to play in the half-court. Purdue will try to feed their bigs, but if Wisconsin can hit a few shots from outside they should get another confidence-boosting win before Iowa and Michigan.
You can catch the game live on Fox Sports 1 or listen to it on WIBA 6 p.m. Thursday.