Nothing like playing in Madison in the winter.
For the second time this season, the Wisconsin Badgers have knocked off a Top Ten team, this time handing the Purdue Boilermakers their first loss of the season, 73-66.
The win pushed coach Bo Ryan's record to 130-10 at home in his nine seasons at the helm of the Badgers, who were picked to finish anywhere from seventh to ninth in their conference by most publications. The win moves Wisconsin to 3-1 in the Big Ten, and, in the conversation for the conference title.
Purdue and Michigan State are still the likely favourites, but how far off are the Badgers? Wisconsin is one of the better defensive teams in the country, allowing an average of 57 points per game. The pace at which they play has a lot to do with this as well. Fewer (and longer) possessions means fewer opportunities. They are also as dominant on their home floor as anyone in the country. And, they seem to have an endless supply of big men who can shoot the three. Jon Leuer has emerged this season to complement the underrated (unappreciated ?) Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon. In yesterday's game it was freshman Jordan Taylor to the rescue after two quick fouls on Hughes.
Wisconsin underachieved somewhat last season, barely slipping into the NCAA tournament as a 12-seed. Yes, they did post a first-round win but overall the year was not what fans nor Ryan have come to expect.
This year could turn out to be quite the opposite. The Badgers have positioned themselves well and while there is a ton of basketball still to be played, they have shown that they can bang with the best in the conference. Their home schedule is very favourable for the rest of conference play but their road schedule is very tough. If they manage three or four wins on the road, they could be looking at a high seed come March.