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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Three-Guard Circus Surprise

The Badger circus rolled into West Lafayette some time ago and the spectacle begins in less than an hour. It's a battle to maintain hope in the Big Ten conference chase to catch the men in Spartan green. Many expect Purdue to deal Wisconsin's recent high-wire act of comeback victories a brutal end.

In each Wisconsin's last three wins, a different Badger guard has stepped forward from either a terrible half or straight up obscurity to propel UW to victory in the second half. Trevon Hughes beat Northwestern (though Jason Bohannon certainly did his part in the first half). Rob Wilson introduced himself to Michigan with perfect timing, along with Hughes' help. Finally, Jordan Taylor caught fire to down Penn State.

Who will step up this time and gun down Purdue? Will J-Bo take the mantle down the stretch or will one of the aforementioned guards perform an encore?

The Badgers made only 27.5% of their 3-pointers in the past four games, attempting 27 such shots on average. It's probably wishful thinking to expect a regression to the mean (season avg: 33.5%) when the opponent is better, the venue is less hospitable and UW's personnel remains the same.

But if UW can somehow take advantage of what statistics say is a lax Boilermaker perimeter defense and shoot at or above their season average percentage, that will be worth an extra 6 to 9 points over the course of 27 attempts. Purdue is allowing opponents to shoot 36.9% from deep this year, their worst mark since 2005-06.

Yet the Boilers remain a stellar defensive team. Purdue's philosophy seems to be, "Come into the paint and get denied" ... to which the current perimeter-oriented Wisconsin team says, "Perfect!"

Keaton Nankivil is coming off a very efficient game against Penn State, but had trouble staying on the court (foul trouble) against Purdue in Madison. He needs to turn the tables on JuJuan Johnson and Co. this time so that Bo Ryan is free to go small. Otherwise, the battle of the boards will get ugly.

I see Ryan Evans being the X-factor, along with Nankivil, to keep Wisconsin in the game. If the game is tight in the end, it will be time for another miracle finish from the three-guard -- no wait, four-guard -- circus that Bo is leading.

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