The Wisconsin men’s basketball team hit the road Saturday with a tall task in front of it. The Badgers are bussing to West Lafayette to take on the only Big Ten team that they don’t have a current winning streak against. Bo Ryan’s boys have defeated every Big Ten team they’ve faced recently with the exception of Purdue. Last year the Boilermakers nipped the Badgers twice, providing the only blemish on a 16-2 regular season record and 3-0 Big Ten tournament record. While revenge for last year’s losses might be on the players’ minds, the team’s historical record at Mackey Arena won’t be.
“These guys don’t know about the history,” Coach Ryan said Friday when asked about Wisconsin’s all-time record at Purdue. “We don’t talk about what has or hasn’t been done.”
When you’re not ranked in the top 25 it’s easy to be forgotten. The Badgers spent the first few weeks among the media’s top 25, but losses to three elite-caliber teams was apparently enough to knock out the Red and White. Rankings mean very little this early in the season, but the status associated with being a ranked team is still somewhat important. With three straight Big Ten wins, including a road victory over a ranked Michigan team, the Badgers are on the cusp of being ranked again. However, until a number is next to the name Wisconsin, people continue to ignore the Badgers success (past and present).
Case in point, a recent Athlon article titled, “Badgers a surprise at top of Big Ten.” The article itself was flattering to the UW program, but even after winning five rings in seven years, Wisconsin’s success comes as a surprise to media outside of Madison. I think the retort by The Sporting News writer Mike DeCourcy’s was as good as anything I could write:
“I’m still not sure if that (title) was meant to be ironic. If Wisconsin being first in the conference comes as a surprise, someone needs to be made aware Bo Ryan still is the Badgers’ coach. As long as Ryan is in Madison, Wisconsin will be somewhere in the Big Ten race. A date to circle: Feb. 22, Wisconsin at Michigan State. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), it’s the one meeting this year between the Big Ten’s two best.”
A five-hour bus ride to and from West Lafayette requires lots of movies (especially when winter weather slows traffic). Here’s a quick list of the rentals the Badgers took with them: Hancock, Step Brothers, Righteous Kill, Pineapple Express and Cool Runnings. Yes, that Cool Runnings.
Health figures to be a primary storyline in Sunday’s game between Wisconsin and Purdue. The Boilermakers played without the services of starters Robbie Hummel (back) and Chris Kramer (foot) in a loss at Penn State this week. Reports coming out of West Lafayette are saying that Kramer will play and Hummel is questionable. Both are tough kids and I fully expect them both to play… and play well.
On the Wisconsin side, thankfully injuries aren’t a big concern right now. The Badgers have been warding off the flu bug that inflicts so many this time of year though. Penn State came to Madison last week with a whole team of guys just getting over illness. Incredibly, it seems that Henry Perez-Guerra (team trainer) and his staff have quarantined the virus. Somehow they managed to restrict it to just Joe Krabbenhoft getting sick, and he didn’t even miss a game.
But really, like Joe Krabbenhoft would miss a game.