Ohio State and Wisconsin have both proved their mastery on the gridiron time after time this season, but their basketball counterparts cannot say the same on the hoops court. Three hours before the Big Ten Championship game is scheduled to kick off in Indianapolis between the same two schools, the Buckeyes and Badgers will begin conference play on the hardwood Saturday when they meet in Madison.
Wisconsin’s young roster has taken its predictable lumps early this season against arguably the most difficult schedule thus far in college basketball, playing to and dropping each of its four games against ranked opponents. The Badgers found themselves within two points with two minutes remaining in each of their first three such contests, but that was not the case in Monday’s 49-37 setback at No. 15 Virginia, as Wisconsin could muster only 17 second-half points. While the Badgers enter the weekend having lost four of five, Ohio State has fallen in three of its last four since winning its first four games under new coach Chris Holtmann. Like Wisconsin, the Buckeyes are coming off a defeat in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge - a 79-65 loss at home on Wednesday to Clemson.
TV: 5 p.m. ET, Fox
ABOUT OHIO STATE (5-3): Turnovers have been a consistent theme during the Buckeyes’ 1-3 swoon, as they have averaged 17.7 in their three losses, including a season-high 24 in their previous game - a 67-66 overtime against Butler in the Phil Knight Invitational last week. “It was worse than last time. We had the game under control, and then … we started to turn the ball over. We lost our poise and that was the end of the game,” junior forward Keita Bates-Diop said after his Buckeyes surrendered an 11-point lead early in the second half versus Clemson. Bates-Diop (team-high marks of 17.4 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks) has scored at least 16 points in all but one game and already posted a Big Ten-best five double-doubles.
ABOUT WISCONSIN (3-4): While junior forward Ethan Happ (17.6 points, 9.1 rebounds) is still the go-to option, four freshmen - Brad Davison, Aleem Ford, Kobe King and Nate Reuvers - account for 28.7 percent of the offensive production and 33.2 percent of the minutes played so far this season. However, Happ (14 points on 6-of-10 from the floor) was the only Badger besides sophomore D’Mitrik Trice (10 points, 4-of-12) to finish in double figures against the Cavaliers, as their teammates combined to shoot 5-for-26 from the field and score 13 points. Davidson (10.9 points) tied a season low with five points and went 1-for-5 beyond the arc, ending a three-game stretch during which he drained 11 of his previous 19 3-point attempts.
1. Ohio State F Jae’Sean Tate is three points shy of reaching 1,200 for his career.
2. Happ, who averaged 14 points in 2016-17, was limited to a total of 10 points on 5-of-15 shooting in two meetings against Ohio State last season.
3. After averaging 21 points in his final two games of the Phil Knight Invitational, Buckeyes G C.J. Jackson, the second-leading scorer on the team, tied a season low with seven points versus Clemson.
PREDICTION: Wisconsin 67, Ohio State 54