Halfway through the Big Ten conference season, the league title contenders have begun to separate themselves, and the pretenders have fallen off. Out front are Purdue, Wisconsin, and Illinois - a trio that seems to be on the inside track towards the conference crown.
That is, until Nebraska threw a wrench into the equation with an upset of the nation's sixth-ranked Badgers on Thursday night. The upset was a classic look ahead spot for Wisconsin, a sneaky road trip to Lincoln to face off against the Cornhuskers right before a huge matchup with the Purdue Boilermakers.
Unfortunately for Wisconsin, the defeat now leaves them with little momentum as they face down their toughest challenge of the 2023-24 season. Coming in second nationally, the Boilermakers are on a redemption quest after last season's shocking first round March exit. Matt Painter's team is 20-2 overall and 9-2 in the league, fresh off a hard-fought overtime victory over the Northwestern Wildcats.
The good news for Wisconsin is that they get to welcome Purdue to Kohl Center, which should be full of energy as they welcome one of the nation's top teams into town. That gives the Badgers a clear edge at a place where they have won three of their last five meetings with the Boilermakers.
But in order to come out on top and bolster their resume for a potential No. 1 or 2 seed come Selection Sunday, Wisconsin will have to do more than just contain National Player of the Year frontrunner Zach Edey. With plenty of offensive weapons and a stellar defense, the Boilermakers are one of the nation's most complete teams, creating quite a test for Greg Gard and company in a major weekend battle.