Wisconsin vs. Purdue preview: Defense the key for Badgers

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Bo Ryan can't be happy with how his team is playing right now. I know Badger Nation is none too happy, either.

Defense.

That is the one phase of basketball that Bo Ryan's Wisconsin teams have always been good at; some pundits would even say great at. But the Badgers' three straight losses have proven one thing: this Wisconsin team is mediocre, maybe worse than mediocre defensively.

Allowing 81 points to an average offensive team playing essentially the whole game without its best player is simply unacceptable. A truly top-10 team would not allow the Minnesota Golden Gophers to shoot nearly 60 percent from the floor over the course of 40 minutes.

Were the Gophers at home? Yes, but so what? Was Wednesday night a game between two bitter rivals with one program trying to put itself back on the map? Yes, but so what. Coming off two straight losses, the Badgers should have played with nastiness against Minnesota -- they didn't.

Wisconsin won its first 16 games of the season, the best start in program history. While that's a remarkable accomplishment and something all Wisconsin fans should be proud of, it also means expectations are likely greater now than they've ever been. When you get off to such a hot start and see national media members throwing around phrases like, "Bo Ryan has his best ever chance to make the Final Four," opponents see that and you go on notice. When a team goes on notice, it takes every other team's best possible shot, and unfortunately, the Badgers haven't shown they can handle that punch.

Now, do I think the Wisconsin was overhyped during its 16-0 start? Eh, maybe a little bit, but this can still be a great basketball team. Over the course of a season, every team will have its lumps, but how a team responds -- that is always the most telling sign of greatness. Having lost three straight games in eerily similar fashion (terrible defense), a great team would walk into West Lafayette this evening and pummel a very average basketball team.

In all honesty, any other key that we provide right now is a mute point. This team has been flat-out, jokingly bad with its defense the past three games, and until the Badgers prove they can keep penetrating guards out of the lane, I'm not providing an offensive key.

Yes, it's a short and a sweet post folks, but quite frankly today's game doesn't merit a whole lot comprehensive analysis. Purdue is average; Wisconsin is not. If the Badgers get back to their roots, this game shouldn't be close.

Prediction: Wisconsin 74, Purdue 63

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