Wisconsin travels to West Lafayette for its final game of the regular season on Sunday night at 6:30 PM CT (Big Ten Network). In the first matchup on December 29th, the Boilermakers came out on top, 61-55.

The Badgers will look to close out the season winning their final 12 of 13 games. The Big Ten standings are hectic, with three teams having five Big Ten losses and three teams having six Big Ten losses. Sunday is a big day for seeding implications for the Big Ten Tournament, and the Badgers can reach a #3 seed with a win and either a #5 or #6 seed with a loss. 

Projected Starters

Projected Wisconsin Starters

G: Bronson Koenig (13.7 PPG, 2.4 APG)
G: Zak Showalter (7.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG)
F: Nigel Hayes (16.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.1 APG)
F: Vitto Brown (9.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG)
F: Ethan Happ (11.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG)

Projected Purdue Starters

G: P.J. Thompson (5.3 PPG, 2.7 APG)
G: Rapheal Davis (8.7 PPG, 2.0 APG)
F: Vince Edwards (10.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.9 APG)
F: Caleb Swanigan (9.9 PPG, 8.2 RPG)
C: A.J. Hammons (14.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG)

Outlook

A lot has changed since the first matchup between Wisconsin and Purdue. Purdue will be playing a completely different team than it did on December 29th, one that has a much better offense than the team that shot 38.6% from the field and 29.4% from the three-point line. However, you have to give Purdue credit for their defensive performance on that December night. Purdue is built to defend the Badgers with size and athleticism.

A.J. Hammons, Purdue’s best player, is a great rim protector (averaging 2.6 BPG) and gave Ethan Happ fits in that game, going 1-8. Happ has struggled against length this season at only 6’9″, and this will be Wisconsin’s most important matchup on Sunday. Still, if Happ can get to the line and get Hammons in foul trouble, that would be big for Wisconsin. Getting Hammons out of the game would be big. However, Purdue’s top reserve Isaac Haas is 7’2″, so Happ will still have a difficult matchup.

Furthermore, Bronson Koenig has been enjoying an excellent stretch over the last 9 games, scoring in double figures in all of them. He is averaging 14 PPG on 48% from the field and 49% from the 3-PT line. However, Purdue’s Rapheal Davis is the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and may be on his way to another one. Nigel Hayes, Koenig, and Happ shot a combined 10-30 in the first matchup, and clearly will need to be more efficient on Sunday night.

The Badgers defense played well overall, keeping them in the game. However, Hammons dominated the game and almost single-handedly beat the Badgers that night. Hammons scored 24 points in 28 minutes. No other Boilermaker was even in double figures. Much like his dominance on the defensive end against Happ, he utilized his size on the offensive end as well. Much of this game will come down to how the Badgers defend the paint.

Bottom Line

With major seeding implications for both teams and it being the last game for each team, this is essentially a postseason game. Nigel Hayes is going to have to be a major source of offense for the Badgers, along with timely shooting from Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter for the Badgers to win. Keeping Hammons off the block will be the biggest key on the defensive end for the Badgers.