There’s no question the Wisconsin Badgers are the Big Ten’s hottest team. Four weeks of winning has brought UW right back inside the AP’s top ten.
Unfortunately for the Badgers, their weeklong absence from the top 25 cost them an opportunity to celebrate as regular season champions.
Last night, Michigan torched Illinois to clinch the Big Ten in anti-dramatic fashion. A tough blow for Wisconsin, who has scratched and clawed their way to a 24-5 record. All the Badgers could do is watch, as the Illini handed the conference crown to the Wolverines.
For Wisconsin, February’s fight won’t go unrewarded. The Badger’s have secured themselves a bye in the Big Ten tournament along with great leverage with the NCAA tournament committee.
In the bigger picture, Michigan stealing the season championship may benefit the Badgers. March is all about getting hot at the right time. Wisconsin has the momentum but what will it take to maintain it? How about getting snuffed of a championship, to a rival who they defeated two weeks prior.
Any motivation is good motivation at this point. Wisconsin may have beaten Penn State on Sunday but there was room for concern. The Badgers were outscored as well as outrebounded by the sub .500 Nittany Lions. UW left victorious but performances like that won’t get them far in March.
Wisconsin believes they’re the best team in the Big Ten. Seeing the Wolverines hoist the regular season trophy has to spark a fire inside each Badger. A little added energy should put the Badgers right back in their groove.
Tonight, Wisconsin welcomes the Purdue Boilermakers to the Kohl Center. They’ll also say farewell to the players lacing up one last time in front of the Grateful Red.
Of those moving on, the most celebrated will be senior guard Ben Brust. Through 99 career games, Brust has accumulated 210 three-point goals. The prolific shooter will go down as one of the best in school history. He is nine triples shy of reaching a school record of 80 this season. With two games remaining the feat may seem impossible, but how better of an opportunity does Ben need?
He’s more than capable of taking the record(which is his in the first place). In several occasions he’s knocked down seven three balls in a single game. Reaching the school’s shooting pinnacle yet again could inspire teammates around him.
I must reiterate the focus of keeping momentum. March is when teams have to play at their highest level. Inspired individual efforts will transpire throughout the team. If Brust takes over at any point the Kohl Center will erupt with energy.
As for Purdue, they can’t seem to find a win. The Boilermakers currently reside on a four-game losing skid. Last month Wisconsin shut down Purdue, only allowing 58 points.
Expect a different type of game tonight. Purdue’s offense has picked up of late. Against Iowa on Sunday, five Boilermakers reached double digits. It will take a team effort defensively to slow them down.
Wisconsin’s defensive field goal percentage has been their struggling point. Teams have lighten up the Badgers inside and out. Bo Ryan must decide what to take away from the Boilermakers offense.
His best bet would be eliminating center A.J. Hammons. On Jan 25, Hammons was shut down to two points in only 12 minutes of play against the Badgers. Why not try the same approach again?
Shooting hasn’t been apart of Boilermaker’s forte. Only two of their players (Kendall Stephens and Terone Johnson) rank in the top 40 for Big Ten three-point shooting. In their previous matchup against UW, Purdue shot 3-17 from beyond the arch.
If UW can force the Boilermaker’s to settle for jump shots they should be just fine. If the Badger’s interior gives in, an upset most certainly could occur.
Purdue ruined Wisconsin’s senior day in 2013. With redemption on the Badger’s mind, tonight’s second take should not disappoint.