Can you call a team a "surprise" when that same team surprises people every single year?
That's how you might describe No. 17 Wisconsin, Purdue's opponent Sunday afternoon in the daunting Kohl Center in Madison.
When this much-anticipated Big Ten season started, it was Indiana, Michigan and to a lesser extent Michigan State and Ohio State generating all the publicity around a league considered college basketball's strongest.
Meanwhile, the Badgers were smarting from the preseason loss of point guard Josh Gasser, a critical player moving into the role left by departed star Jordan Taylor.
Yet, here it is, March, and here's Bo Ryan once again, a game out of first place in the Big Ten and the only team this season to win at No. 1 IU.
It's been the usual formula for Wisconsin, popping in different pieces and never missing a beat while playing solid, disciplined, methodical basketball and not beating itself, though this season it's missing free throws.
"It's one of those programs that should be a blueprint for a lot of people in terms of doing things the right way," Purdue coach Matt Painter said.
Unfortunately for Painter, the same has typically been said of his team in recent years, but this year's edition is atypical.
The Boilermakers have struggled this season, at both ends of the floor, but especially on offense, where it's been undisciplined and mistake-prone.
That's scary for Purdue heading to the Kohl Center, where Wisconsin is a mere 181-17 at home under Ryan in his 12 years as the Badgers' coach.
Wisconsin's been virtually unbeatable at home under Ryan in large part because his teams don't make mistakes and forces other teams to do so, as does the daunting environment.
Purdue is trending poorly in that regard.
In the Boilermakers' last three road games, it turned the ball over 17 times at Illinois; another 17 times at Illinois; then 16 times at Iowa.
In Iowa City, Purdue managed just 16 first-half points and now faces the likelihood it'll have to face Wisconsin with leading scorer Terone Johnson highly limited. He rolled his ankle at Iowa, but said he expects to play.
Against Wisconsin - more so than any other opponent in the Big Ten - good offense leads to good defense.
Is Purdue capable?
"They're a very efficient offensive team, but time of possession is important to them," Painter said. "You're going to spend a lot more time on defense than you are offense when you play Wisconsin. But if you have a lot of talent or you want to (shoot) it out with them and shoot quick, you better shoot a good percentage, because if you don't, you're beat. You have to put them on defense and make them guard for long periods of time.
"We have to give ourselves a chance, no matter who we play."
F: D.J. Byrd
C: A.J. Hammons
G: Ben Brust (6-1, 195, Jr.)
G: Ryan Evans (6-6, 208, Sr.)
F: Traevon Jackson (6-2, 213, So.)
F: Mike Bruesewitz (6-6, 223, Sr.)
C: Jared Berggren (6-10, 235, Sr.)
Evans went down earlier this week with a sprained right knee and is considered questionable for Senior Day in the Kohl Center. He's Wisconsin's third-leading scorer (10.5) and top rebounder (7.6). … Wisconsin is a the worst foul shooting team in the Big Ten, shooting just 62.4 percent collectively, but it might help if Evans (41.4) isn't on the floor as much as usual. … Berggren leads Wisconsin at 11.6 points per game. The 6-10 center can shoot from the outside, which will make him a difficult matchup for Purdue's 5 men. … Sam Dekker has been one of the league's top freshmen and is a budding star for Wisconsin. He's come off the bench to average nine-and-a-half points and shoot nearly 45 percent from three-point range.
Game time: 1 p.m.
Radio: Purdue Sports Network (95.7 FM locally)
Internet: GoldandBlack.com subscribers can follow along live with our in-game blog, "Game Day Live."
Things to think about
1. Can Purdue play with any measure of poise? Part of the reason the Kohl Center's been such a black hole for visiting teams has been that Wisconsin is built to prey on other teams' mistakes and in an environment like that, mistakes happen. Purdue has been mistake-prone this season and still at this stage of the year continues to be its own worst enemy on offense. Not a good combination heading to Madison.
2. How do injuries factor in? Terone Johnson won't be 100-percent, it's fair to assume, if he does in fact play. That's an important piece for Purdue. But the exact same might be said of Ryan Evans, though Johnson is probably more important to the Boilermakers than Evans is to the Badgers, relatively speaking, because Purdue is so thin in the backcourt and has so few scorers.
3. Can Purdue keep close enough to make free throws at the end matter? Of course, that's a dicey proposition for the Boilermakers but surprisingly even more so for the Badgers this season.
GoldandBlack.com Prediction: Consider all the attributes a team must have to win a game like this in a venue like this - poise, IQ, toughness, etc. Has Purdue given any indication this season it can muster up enough of each to play the sort of game it'll need to to pull a stunning upset? Nope.
Wisconsin 70, Purdue 55
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