Two of the Big Ten’s best meet Sunday afternoon, as always-dreaded Purdue heads to Madison to take on Wisconsin.
This clash would have been for sole possession in the conference if it weren’t for a colossal collapse by Wisconsin against Nebraska on Thursday.
The Badgers led by 18 before the Huskers stormed back to win in overtime.
Meanwhile, Purdue has won six straight and sits atop the Big Ten. They fended off Northwestern in overtime Wednesday.
Purdue boasts the No. 1 offense in college basketball, per KenPom, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Zach Edey is as close to an unstoppable force as possible.
He draws over nine fouls per 40 minutes and ranks inside the top five in the Big Ten in just about every metric.
The way to slow down Edey is by double-teaming the 7-foot-4 Goliath.
But he is a strong enough passer to kick the ball back to the perimeter where an open shooter awaits.
Nearly 30 percent of all Purdue 3s are open, per ShotQuality, as the Boilermakers also rank inside the top 20 in shot selection.
Opponents just have to cross their fingers and hope the 3s don’t fall.
It nearly happened last season in Madison, where Purdue held off the Badgers, 63-61.
In that game, the Boilermakers shot just 21 percent from 3. Edey finished with 17 points and 19 rebounds.
This is nearly the exact same roster for Purdue from a season ago, save for Southern Illinois transfer Lance Jones.
His presence is a much-needed addition in the backcourt, where the Boilermakers have run into trouble against more physical guards.
Wisconsin is going to try to slow this game to a halt. Purdue’s defense won’t force turnovers, and their less physical guards should allow for players such as AJ Storr to create.
The Badgers offense overall ranks seventh, per KenPom, and is above average in just about every metric.
The issue? The majority of their offense comes from attacking inside and drawing contact.
The Badgers operate plenty through the pick-and-roll and in the midrange, but that’s where Purdue is well equipped because of the 7-4 Edey.
He is deceptively quick and coordinated for a giant.
Storr has been the engine of this Wisconsin offense, taking more than 34 percent of all shots while on the floor.
He’s shooting better than 38 percent from deep in conference play and enters fresh off back-to-back 28-point performances. He is the key for the Badgers’ staying within striking distance.
The issue with the Badgers has been their defense.
Though they rebound at an elite level, Wisconsin has struggled to contain opponents from distance.
They rank 308th in 3-point defense, and we saw against Nebraska just how quickly a team can claw back against the Badgers.
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Wisconsin has been able to neutralize teams such as Michigan State, Iowa and Indiana, among others, because those teams aren’t great from distance and look to attack inside.
But Purdue will not be trigger shy, especially with Edey commanding double-teams every play.
For what it’s worth, the Boilermakers are fifth in the country from deep (40.4 percent).
Much of that has to do with the excellence of Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer in their sophomore seasons.
They are both shooting better than 42.5 percent this season from deep.
All this to say that as short favorites, back the Boilermakers on Sunday afternoon.
There are way more paths to success for Purdue and Edey than Wisconsin, which has struggled defensively.
I would also look toward the Under here if you wanted to stay away from the side.
Wisconsin is going to try everything in its power to create a grinder of a game, as slow-paced as possible to limit Edey’s damage.
But in the end, Edey is inevitable.