Wisconsin Basketball: Badgers continue to increase Big Ten lead
Winners of seven straight, the Wisconsin Badgers are beginning to build a lead on top of the Big Ten standings.
The beginning of the Big Ten season started out fast, yet mysterious. A few teams began the schedule with a couple of surprises, including a 3-0 record from both Michigan State and Nebraska.
As the season continues, we begin to figure out who the real contenders are and who is fighting on the bubble for an NCAA Tournament berth. The Wisconsin Badgers currently sit on top of the conference, with a 1.5 game lead over Maryland and Purdue, two games ahead in the loss column.
Purdue handed the Badgers their last loss in the third game of the conference season, a 66-55 victory for the Boilermakers in West Lafayette. Yet an early game in league play, the Boilermakers- one of the favorites by many to win the conference- gained a leg up with their win over Wisconsin as it is the only regular season meeting between the two. If it were to come down to a tiebreaker, Purdue would take home the title.
Fortunately for Wisconsin, Purdue suffered a couple setbacks with a home loss to Minnesota and road defeats at Iowa and at Nebraska- games they were expected to win. Wisconsin on the other hand, continued to win- pulling out gritty win after gritty win and keeping pace with another team that has been red hot: Maryland.
The Terrapins have been parallel with the Badgers in the standings, starting off 8-1 just like Wisconsin did. Maryland fell to Purdue this past weekend on a crazy finish at home and followed it up with a mind-boggling road defeat to Penn State, moving their conference record to 8-3.
Northwestern, who sat tied for third with Purdue, also fell on Tuesday to Illinois at home, making the gap between the Badgers and another contending team larger.
- Wisconsin (9-1)
- Purdue (8-3)
- Maryland (8-3)
- Northwestern (7-4)
- Iowa (6-5)
- Michigan State (6-5)
Thanks to the recent help, the Badgers now sit on top of the Big Ten with a much bigger bullseye on their backs. Facing perhaps their toughest stretch this season, Wisconsin will need to earn a Big Ten championship the hard way. Despite controlling their own destiny, the Badgers still have road games at Nebraska, Michigan, and Michigan State to name a few as well as home stints against Northwestern and Maryland coming up.
While recent results pose as good news at the moment for the Badgers, we cannot help but notice who is back behind them in the standings: Purdue. With games against Maryland and Northwestern still left on the schedule, Wisconsin can still gain an upper hand against them. The longer Purdue lingers around the top, the more pressure Wisconsin has to keep winning. Even though standings indicate that the Badgers are up two games on the Boilermakers in the loss column, two losses by Wisconsin will then give Purdue the advantage.
The Badgers will travel to Lincoln on Thursday to take on a tough Nebraska team at home before returning to Madison to host Northwestern in a big conference showdown.
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