Penn State and Michigan flashed some Cinderella magic, but in the end, the two strongest teams in the top half of the Big Ten Tournament bracket pulled through. As a result, we'll get to see two of the conference's best big men in Frank Kaminsky and A.J. Hammons on the floor together for the first time since January 7.
In that game, the resilient Boilers held Wisconsin to 3-for-14 shooting from beyond the arc but fell in Madison 62-55 thanks to Kaminsky and some solid Badger free throw shooting. The eventual league Player of the Year scored 21 points on just nine field goal attempts to overcome a 51-percent Purdue field goal effort led by 15 points from Jon Octeus.
Almost everything the Boilers got was on two-point shots, as they went 2-for-5 from three-point range and 3-for-7 from the charity stripe. We could experience a similar theme this afternoon with the way Wisconsin avoids fouling opponents. The Badgers were only charged with five fouls against Michigan and they have the length necessary to defend Purdue bigs Hammons and Isaac Haas.
When Purdue has the ball
Hammons dominated Penn State on Friday with 23 points and nine rebounds, but it's going to be much tougher for him to put up those kind of figures against Wisconsin. Although the Badgers aren't a scary defensive unit (they are one of the worst teams in the nation at forcing turnovers, as usual), they can grind teams to death by taking away easy shots and grabbing nearly every miss. The Boilers, who normally live on drives and post-ups inside the arc, are going to need to open up some three-point shooting to subsidize their offense. Kendall Stephens and/or Dakota Mathias must be given some room to hit long-range shots.
When Wisconsin has the ball
Like Wisconsin, Purdue's defense is stronger on the inside than on the perimeter, even with Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Rapheal Davis chasing around the other team's best guard. Fortunately for the Badgers, they don't depend very much on the little guys for their scoring output. Kaminsky had little trouble getting around Hammons during the first Purdue/Wisconsin matchup, and he'll be relied on heavily once again now that the stakes have been raised. If the ball needs to be kicked out, the Badgers have added some range to their offense now that Bronson Koenig is running the point. He's a much stronger three-point shooter than the injured Traevon Jackson.
Davis is more than just a defensive star for Purdue. He's scored in double figures during five of his last six games and was a big factor against Penn State with three triples converted in addition to stellar defense on D.J. Newbill. On the Wisconsin side, watch out for senior forward Duje Dukan. The Badgers don't run a deep rotation by any means, but Dukan is one key bench piece who can stretch out the defense and knock down a three-pointer in a pinch.