No. 16 Wisconsin was considered something of an afterthought in the Big Ten following the graduation of Jordan Taylor and again after losing point guard Josh Gasser before the start of the season.
Yet the Badgers find themselves one game out of first place in the conference heading into their final home game of the season Saturday against Purdue. Wisconsin has won six of seven and has been dominant during its current three-game winning streak.
The Badgers - who already own a win over first-place Indiana - pounded Nebraska 77-46 on Tuesday, winning their third consecutive Big Ten game by 20-plus points for the first time since 1911-12.
Before Wisconsin can prepare for its upcoming showdown at Michigan State, the Badgers must be careful not to overlook Purdue. The Boilermakers have lost five of their last six road games, including Thursday's 58-48 setback at Iowa.
TV: 12 noon, ESPN.
ABOUT PURDUE (13-15, 6-9 Big Ten): Prior to getting shut out by the Hawkeyes, leading scorer Terone Johnson (12.7) had scored 18 of more in three of his last four games. Despite an 0-for-2 effort beyond the arc, however, Johnson is still in the midst of his best 3-point shooting stretch of his three-year career, hitting nine of his last 18 3-pointers. Center A.J. Hammons' effort has been called into question and, as a result, he has come off the bench and is averaging only 15 minutes over the last two games. Regardless, Hammons ranks third among Purdue freshmen all-time in points and second in rebounds.
ABOUT WISCONSIN (20-8, 11-4): Ben Brust (11.4 points) has emerged as a consistent scoring threat over the last seven games, averaging 14.7 points and three 3-pointers while scoring in double figures each time. Freshman Sam Dekker (9.3 points), who is the top-scoring sixth man in the conference, is shooting 61.1 percent from the field and 55 percent beyond the arc in his last five games. The contributions from the two guards have keyed an offensive surge during Wisconsin's 6-1 stretch as the team is averaging 69 points and 21 free throws attempts - dramatic improvements over the 56.5 points and 13 foul-shot attempts the Badgers averaged over their first eight conference games.
1. Wisconsin leads the Big Ten in scoring defense (54.5), field goal percentage defense (38.2) and 3-point field goal percentage defense (27.1).
2. The Boilermakers are the only Big Ten team with a winning record (9-8) against the Badgers in the Bo Ryan era.
3. Under Ryan, Wisconsin is 11-0 on Senior Day.
PREDICTION: Wisconsin 64, Purdue 47.