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1/24 Big Ten Preview: Boilers Look To Bounce Back

Another big game in Mackey.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Only one game on tap tonight, readers, but it should be a good one.

One team is looking to cement its spot as a league frontrunner, and the other just needs a win.

Game of the Night:

-Wisconsin Badgers at Purdue Boilermakers

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM EST, FS1
  • KenPom Spread: Purdue (-3)

So, Purdue really needed that Illinois game. I thought for sure when Alan Griffin got ejected that it would propel Purdue to victory. But no. The Illini embarrassed my alma mater once again. I’m starting to hate those guys.

But the Illini had Kofi Cockburn. Wisconsin has Nate Reuvers. Reuvers can shoot the outside shot, which means that Purdue’s bigs will have to guard farther out than they’re comfortable with, but he’s not the rebounder or the athlete that Cockburn is. Matt Haarms and Trevion Williams should be able to do more work inside, and they’ll need to, because those two have been the only consistent scorers for the Boilermakers.

The one silver lining of the Illinois game for Purdue is that Nojel Eastern finally found something of an offensive groove. All summer, Boiler fans kept talking about how good this team could be if Eastern and Aaron Wheeler made the next step offensively. Instead, both players have regressed since last season, which goes a long way towards explaining why Purdue is 10-9 and out of the NCAA Tournament picture for now.

As for Wisconsin, they don’t look as inconsistent as they did a couple of weeks ago. The home loss to Illinois and road win against Ohio State both make perfect sense—Illinois is much better than we thought and Ohio State is much worse. As such, this looks like a classic Greg Gard team; not the best in the league, but in the top third, and not apt to beat themselves.

The big story for the Badgers is the integration of Micah Potter into the rotation. The knock on Wisconsin earlier this season is that they lacked a pure shooter from outside. Brevin Pritzl should be that, but he and every other Badger is below 40 percent from deep on the season. Except Potter. Albeit with limited sample size, across nine games he’s over 50 percent from three.

There are a couple of ways to take the air out of a great Mackey crowd. One is to play just as hard or harder than Purdue. That’s what Illinois did. The other is to take the air out of the ball. That’s what Wisconsin excels at. This will be a slow game, and you should all bet the under. The small number of possessions doesn’t necessarily mean that Wisconsin will win, but it means that they’ll just need to get a few more bounces going their way than Purdue does to be in a really good position.

I’m down on my team right now, so I’m going to pick Wisconsin, hoping to reverse-jinx the result. Though does a reverse-jinx work if you draw explicit attention to it? The only thing I know is that my TV will have my full attention, and there are likely to be some explicit words said. I don’t mean all those nasty things I’m going to say to you, Brad Davison. Mostly.

  • Pick against the spread: Wisconsin