The Big Ten only had two games on Monday, but both were great matchups. Wisconsin went on the road to face Purdue in the early game and Iowa hosted Maryland in the late game. Both contests contained significant NCAA Tournament implications.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-No. 23 Wisconsin Badgers 74, No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers 69
Heading into tip, I wrote extensively about how these teams seemed to be heading in opposite directions:
Talk about teams heading in opposite directions. While Purdue sits at 12-1 overall and has won four in a row by double-digits, Wisconsin has shown some serious hiccups as of late. The Badgers are 3-1 over the team’s last four games, but need a miraculous comeback to beat Indiana and barely got past underwhelming Nicholls State and Illinois State squads. The loss was also a complete blowout on the road against Ohio State. For perspective, Wisconsin has dropped 13 spots on KenPom in just four games.
However, none of that ended up being true in Monday’s game. Wisconsin was the team that played with an edge, consistently frustrating Purdue down low. Johnny Davis also went off, finishing with an incredible 37 points and 14 rebounds. It’s arguably the most impressive performance for any Big Ten player this season and came in one of its biggest moments. All told, Wisconsin grabbed a 74-69 win. It was the program’s first win in Mackey since 2014.
With the win, Wisconsin improved to 11-2 overall and 2-1 in Big Ten play. The Badgers also established themselves as legitimate Big Ten title contenders. There’s still a long way to go, but if you can win on the road against Purdue, it’s hard to say you don’t have a chance to come away with the title. KenPom has also bumped up Wisconsin’s projected conference record to 12-8, which is just narrowly behind the best projections of 14-6. Win another game or two and the advanced stats sites will be onboard as well.
On the other side, Purdue fell to 12-2 overall and 1-2 in Big Ten play with the loss. Purdue’s overall resume looks solid, but, obviously, fans are going to hate to see a loss like this, especially at home. We’re still in January, so there’s no need to overreact. However, Purdue now has ground to make up in the Big Ten title race. It’s going to need some quality play later in this month to silence the doubters.
Wisconsin will hope to keep things rolling on Thursday at home against Iowa. Meanwhile, Purdue will return to action on Saturday on the road against Penn State. Both teams should be favored.
-Iowa Hawkeyes 80, Maryland Terrapins 75
Neither of these teams were ranked coming into tip, but this had all the markings of a top 25 matchup. Both sides played hard and you got to see the stars shine. Keegan Murray finished with 35 points and eight rebounds for the Hawkeyes and Eric Ayala came up big for the Terps with 19 points and six rebounds. The game was also competitive throughout, coming down to the closing minutes.
Iowa improved to 11-3 overall and 1-2 in Big Ten play with the win, while Maryland fell to 8-5 overall and 0-2 in league play with the loss. The Hawkeyes will now prepare for a road trip to Madison on Thursday and the Terps will hope to rebound against Illinois on the road on Thursday. Both will be underdogs at tip.