Preview: No. 7 Purdue vs. No. 10 Nebraska

These squads met in the first round of the Big Ten tourney last season, when Purdue prevailed. And just like the 2012 tourney, this year’s winner will advance to play Ohio State. The Boilermakers bring plenty of mojo to the United Center and could be a dangerous team capable of a run, as Matt Painter’s team is playing its best basketball of the season. See the highlights in this post from the last time these two teams played. Thursday’s game starts at 6:30 p.m. ET.

The skinny on Purdue: The Boilermakers enter the tourney playing some of their best basketball of their season, having won three of their last six games. And Purdue came close to knocking off No. 7 Michigan in West Lafayette on March 6. It’s simple for Purdue in every game: The Boilermakers will go as far as Terone Johnson and D.J. Byrd carry them. They need to hit some shots, get the ball inside to A.J. Hammons and limit turnovers.

[ MORE: Scoreboard | Live postgame press confereces | All tourney news | BTN TV coverage details ]

Key number: 4.3, three-pointers made per game in league action for the Boilers, the fewest in the Big Ten.

The skinny on Nebraska: The Cornhuskers, who have lost three of four coming to Chicago, need to shoot well to have a chance, putting the onus on Ray Gallegos and Dylan Talley to have big games. This is an offensively challenged team that’s last in the Big Ten in scoring (58.6 ppg). And big, physical Purdue could have its way on the glass with a poor rebounding Nebraska club. Brandon Ubel needs to play well in the paint.

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Key number: 8.7, assists per game in Big Ten action for the Huskers. That ranks last in the league.

This season: The teams met just once, with the Boilermakers taking a 65-56 decision in Lincoln on Jan. 16. But Ubel didn’t play in that game.

What’s next: The winner will face No. 2 Ohio State on Friday at 4:30 p.m. CT.

***

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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