With a relatively soft schedule in January can Wisconsin run and hide from the pack in the Big Ten before they host Purdue on February 4th? – Patrick Madden (@TheSportsJD)
I am glad I received this question because it was something that I was already thinking about this week. Wisconsin finished off Ohio State on Wednesday and Northwestern on Saturday to move to 5-0 In the league and the Badgers have looked exceptional doing it. Wisconsin is playing at a much faster pace than everyone is used to seeing from Wisconsin basketball. They also are getting extreme production from players who didn’t have great overall years last year. Steven Crowl has taken his game to the next level, Chucky Hepburn looks completely bought in, which he didn’t last year, and Tyler Wahl is playing at his normal level but the role players around him are stepping up making him seem more effective.
The Badgers also have a premier freshman in John Blackwell. Blackwell is the sixth man for Wisconsin and is currently shooting 46% and 48% from deep. Blackwell and the addition of St. John’s transfer AJ Storr. Storr is the teams leading scorer and has taken this offense up a notch. He plays fast and demands attention from the opponents defense. Storr can spread you on defense and with his speed coupled with Hepburn and other guard Max Klesmit they increase the pace and make Wisconsin one of the toughest and most efficient offensive teams in the country.
Wisconsin has benefited from a lighter Big Ten schedule as they have yet to play Purdue, Illinois, or Northwestern. They did beat Michigan State at Breslin and they blew Nebraska out in the Kohl center. As mentioned they stand at 4-0 they are the only undefeated team in the league and have a full 1.5 game lead over Illinois, Purdue, and Indiana. Minnesota and Northwestern are 2 games behind and Nebraska is next with 2.5 games behind. The schedule is full of games that Wisconsin will win the rest of January and have a very good chance to start league play at 9-0. If the Badgers do that they will be tough to catch especially given the schedules of the rest of the league relative to Wisconsin. The Badgers do have a game in Lincoln against Nebraska on February 1st that looks like a game that could be the first loss for Wisconsin in the league. That would put them at 9-1 heading into the Purdue showdown.
It is setting up to be a showdown for first place on February 4th at Kohl Center when Purdue comes to town. The Boilers play Penn State, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Rutgers, and Northwestern. There are some games that Purdue has struggled with in the past especially at Rutgers, but they get Northwestern this time in Mackey, which will be a win. Purdue will be favored in every one of these games and if they can win them all that would put them at 9-2 heading into the Wisconsin game. The winner of that game should be in first place.
If Wisconsin can start 9-0 and even with a loss to Nebraska can beat Purdue at Kohl center that is going to guarantee them a top 8 seed in the NCAA tournament. There are not many other games other than Nebraska, Purdue, Illinois, and at Mackey arena that Wisconsin looks like they won’t win. The Badgers have their most talented team since Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky, and they are one of the top 4 teams in the league. The question is will they get tripped up before their schedule gets tougher down the stretch of the season? Time will tell but that Purdue and Wisconsin game has the makings of a top 5 showdown in Madison. I do think that game will decide first place and the winner of the league.