After a loaded Saturday college basketball slate, two of the nation's top teams will face off in Madison, Wisconsin for the outright lead in the Big Ten. No. 2 Purdue Basketball (20-2, 9-2 Big Ten) seems to have shaken last year's disastrous NCAA Tournament loss to Fairleigh Dickinson, as their play this season has been reflective of a true Final Four contender.
Zach Edey is in excellent position to be the National Player of the Year for a second consecutive year, averaging 23.4 points and 11.6 rebounds while shooting 63.5% from the field. His play has been supplemented by excellent backcourt play from sophomore returners Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer, as well as Southern Illinois transfer Lance Jones.
No. 6 Wisconsin (16-5, 8-2 Big Ten) has been a relative suprise after returning most of the production from a 20-15 NIT semifinal squad. With four scorers averaging double figures and an 11-1 home record, the Badgers present a serious challenge for a Purdue squad that has suffered both its losses on the road this season. Here are three keys for the Boilermakers to come away with a huge win.
1) Win the Battle on the Perimeter
This game features two teams who have been highly efficient from behind the arc as of late. The Badgers are shooting 39.3% from deep as a team since the start of 2024, while the Boilermakers have converted 43.1% of their three-point looks in the new year. Despite having a top-40 defense per KenPom, the Badgers allow opponents to shoot 36% from deep, ranking 307th in the country. On the other side, Purdue has surrendered just 31.7% behind the arc. Each team has been shooting the ball well, but Matt Painter's group has a clear advantage in terms of perimeter defense. Maintaining that edge will help swing the game in their favor.
2) Avoid Half-Court Breakdowns
Another key for Matt Painter's group will be keeping things tight in their half court sets. The Badgers are No. 322 in KenPom's adjusted tempo metric and will look to dictate a slower pace on their home floor. The vast majority of this contest will be played in the half court, as neither Purdue nor Wisconsin gets out on the fast break much. In a game with minimal transition play, running clean and efficient offensive sets will be a deciding factor. Purdue will have some margin for error as Wisconsin doesn't score many points off turnovers, but avoiding miscues will nonetheless be key for securing the win.
3) Make AJ Storr Pass
After transferring in from St. John's, Wisconsin guard AJ Storr has had a massive impact for the Badgers this season. He paces the team in scoring with 16.5 points per game and has added a new offensive dynamic to a squad that finished 140th in KenPom's adjusted offensive efficiency last season. Storr is coming off consecutive 28-point, zero-assist performances against Michigan State and Nebraska, respectively.
Storr's volume scoring has been huge, and he's found success creating his own shot, but he doesn't offer much in terms of making plays for others. He is averaging 1.0 assists versus 1.6 turnovers per game this year and has just one game with three assists. Keeping focused defensive pressure on Storr, even sending some doubles his way, will limit his offensive output while forcing him into uncomfortable situations where he has to pass out of pressure. How Matt Painter elects to scheme for Wisconsin's top scorer will certainly be something to watch for.