Purdue Boilermakers vs. Wisconsin Badgers Pick & Prediction MARCH 10th 2024

Before Purdue’s Zach Edey takes his 7-foot-4, 300-pound frame into a pace-and-space NBA that doesn’t seem suited for a classic big man like him, he has one last home game to play and a national championship to pursue.

Edey and No. 3 Purdue finish the regular season on Sunday in West Lafayette, Ind., where Wisconsin provides the opposition in a matchup with relatively little at stake except for momentum for the winner heading into the Big Ten Conference tournament next week in Minneapolis.

The Boilermakers (27-3, 16-3 Big Ten) clinched the league’s regular-season title Tuesday night with a come-from-behind, 77-71 win at Illinois. Edey scored a game-high 28 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and teammate Fletcher Loyer scored seven straight points late in the game to turn a two-point deficit into a 71-66 advantage.

It was another big game on a big stage for Edey, who is averaging 24.1 points and 11.7 rebounds in what is shaping up to be a historic season. Next month, he is expected to be selected the consensus national player of the year for the second consecutive season, making him the first to do it since Virginia’s Ralph Sampson in the early 1980s.

But Edey’s last year in college will be judged largely on whether Purdue can win six games in March and April. It’s national title or bust in some ways for the Boilermakers, especially after last March’s embarrassing first-round loss to 16th-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson.

Edey has more help around him this time, though. Loyer’s late-game explosion at Illinois is proof. With teams focusing on containing Edey inside, it provides clean looks for Purdue’s variety of guards.

“When the going gets tough down the stretch, defenses get spread out and when they keyed in on Zach those last five or 10 minutes, there was just a lot of room to navigate,” Loyer said. “I just knew I had to have my legs ready and my feet ready to shoot it.”

Meanwhile, the Badgers (19-11, 11-8) come in off a 78-66 home win over Rutgers on Thursday. Wisconsin got 19 points from AJ Storr and a surprising 11 from Kamari McGee, boosting his season average to just 1.9 ppg in 19 games. The outcome boosted the Badgers into a tie for third with Northwestern and Nebraska.

While McGee’s outing, coming after he missed 11 games with a toe injury, was a major boost, the Badgers are still battling injuries. Starter Max Klesmit left with 13:56 remaining on Thursday with a lower-body injury. His status for Sunday was unknown.

“He’s a little sore,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “Says he is going to be OK. We’ll see.”

Still, Gard was happy to see the team offer more of a complete effort than it has in a while. The Badgers have won only three of their past 10 games, going from a potential top four NCAA Tournament seed to a six or seven seed at this point.

One of those defeats was a 75-69 setback to the Boilermakers on Feb. 4 in Madison, Wis. Purdue’s Lance Jones and Wisconsin’s Tyler Wahl each connected for 20 points in that contest.

–Field Level Media

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