Prediction: Wisconsin vs. Purdue

Prediction: Wisconsin vs. Purdue

Basketball

Prediction: Wisconsin vs. Purdue

MADISON, Wis. – Purdue has been known for trotting out tremendously physical big men over the years, a reason why the Boilermakers are one of the few teams that have given Wisconsin fits in past matchups.

This year is different, especially since Purdue graduated Vincent Edwards and Isaac Haas and has yet to find an accurate replacement in the middle, as Matt Harms and Traveion Williams continue to grow into the spot. It’s part of the reason Purdue ranks 75th in defensive efficiency and has six losses.

That doesn’t mean the Boilers aren’t dangerous, ranking seventh in offensive efficiency and 28th in offensive rebounding percentage, the latter being an area of concern for the Badgers in recent weeks. It’ll help slightly that 6-8 Purdue forward Evan Boudreaux will be out tonight with a groin injury, but the Boilers will still have Carsen Edwards.

Being assertive with the ball and hunting his shot, Edwards has taken command of this team. His 24.5 points per game lead the conference, as well as his 88.2 free throw percentage and his 3.7 made 3-pointers per game. He’s explosive and quick to the rim, a reason why the Badgers’ team defensive will be critical.

Purdue changed its lineup in recent weeks, making them more mobile on the perimeter and a smaller lineup that is willing to shoot 3-pointers and put more pressure on teams. Head coach Greg Gard said that it looks at times like Purdue has five guards on the floor and that senior Grady Eifert – a 6-6 forward who leads the team with 5.7 rebounds per game – has added a different dimension this season with his ability to shoot from distance from the four spot.

Purdue was minus-13 on the boards and shot 31.3 percent from the field in the loss to the Spartans earlier this week, so it’s unlikely they’ll have two clunkers in a row.

Where Wisconsin can separate itself tonight is the place where they’ve done it all season, in the low post. Forwards Ethan Happ and Nate Reuvers have an advantage on paper over Haarms (more a shot blocker) and Williams (more a low-post scorer and rebounder). Happ has averaged 16.8 points (on 45.2 percent shooting), 7.3 rebounds and four assists over the last four meetings with Purdue, and he did that against bigger low-post lineups.

Wisconsin ranks 13th in defensive efficiency for a reason. The Badgers will have to do their best to limit the production of Edwards, who will find a way to get his shots no matter what and cut off the options around him. After Edwards’ 55 3-pointers, Ryan Cline has hit 46 3-pointers and a team-best 3.6 assists per game.

The Badgers proved on Sunday they can win when D’Mitrik Trice and Happ don’t have their best games. Tonight, Happ will show why he’s one of the best low-post players in the country. A solid night from Happ and a sound defensive effort will give the Badgers a nine-point win.

Worgull’s Record: 11-4

Points off Prediction: 145 (9.6 per game)

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