Preview: #2 Ohio State vs. #4 Wisconsin

By Kyle Rowland on March 17, 2013 at 10:00a
We can't really decide what kind of undead character Bo Ryan is
Ohio State Buckeyes #2 Ohio State 25-7, 13-5 Big Ten Roster | Schedule 3:30 PM ET - CBS —— United Center Chicago, IL Wisconsin Badgers #4 Wisconsin 23-10, 12-6 Big Ten Roster | Schedule

They should just rename March Matta – because the Ohio State head coach owns the third month of the calendar year. In his nine seasons in Columbus, Matta is 49-12 and he’s appeared in seven of the last eight Big Ten championship games, including the past five.

He’s tied with Tom Izzo with three conference tournament titles and is the win-percentage leader in Big Ten Tournament history. The only blemish on his otherwise perfect résumé is the lack of a national championship.

There’s been no rhyme or reason to Matta’s string of successes, especially when you look at how Ohio State has overpowered blue bloods such as Indiana and Michigan State.

“It’s all Coach, him and the players he recruits,” junior point guard Aaron Craft said. “He really takes this tournament seriously. He takes it one game at a time and looks at it as, if you lose, you go home. He does a phenomenal job, and it really trickles down to us.”

Ohio State is on a lucky seven-game win streak. But even playing their best basketball of the season doesn’t have them among the favorites to win a title as the tournament nears. The job Matta has done to this point has far surpassed expectations from as little as one month ago, when the Buckeyes were a middling team in the nation’s toughest conference. Now, Ohio State has an opportunity to lay claim to being a member of the elite.

The Buckeyes were ranked No. 4 in the preseason poll, but even Matta thought that was a stretch. Today, Ohio State could be the fourth-best team in the country. Losing Jared Sullinger and William Buford, though, did not provide visions of a team of that caliber. Ironically, it was a 21-point loss to Wisconsin in February that lifted Ohio State to this point.

“Ever since then we’ve been on a mission to get back on our defensive edge and do what we have to do to win games,” junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. said. “You have to play maximum level defense to beat anybody, especially good teams in this conference. This being the toughest conference in the country, if we want to win games, we have to bring our defense.

“Now we understand that.”


Whether it’s the football title game or basketball’s version, chances are Wisconsin is playing in it. The Badgers’ roundball streak isn’t nearly as impressive as the Buckeyes, but it’s serious nonetheless.

Wisconsin will be appearing in its fifth Big Ten Tournament championship game on Sunday. It took home titles in 2004 and 2008 and lost in ’05 and ’07. Needless to say, they belong.

“We’re not really too concerned about what’s going to happen there,” senior center Jared Berggren said. “A lot of the resume is already built throughout the season, but getting two big wins the last two days definitely won’t hurt us. But right now we’re just focused on trying to get another win and hopefully win the championship.”

The Badgers’ place in this game is still surprising, even as a No. 4 seed. Going through Indiana, a team they’ve now beaten 12 consecutive times, was still viewed as a momentous upset. Wisconsin is 5-1 against Indiana, Ohio State and Michigan. Time and again, the Badgers have proven they’re a dangerous team to run into.

“There are just things in this game where no matter how you try to explain them, they defy explanation or reason,” Ryan said.

With a style that frustrates those trapped in it, Wisconsin has been a pest of an opponent since Ryan arrived. It’s now or never for a Final Four run. The roster is loaded with seniors that mesh nicely with complementary pieces.

Guards Ben Brust and Traevon Jackson have elevated their games in the past month, contributing to Wisconsin’s string of big victories. And like Ohio State, the Badgers have done it mostly with defense. They’re ranked ninth in the country in that category. Wisconsin and Ohio State are 1-2 in the conference.

“I just again can't tell you how proud I am of the defensive effort,” said Ryan, after the Badgers made arguably the best team in the country – Indiana – look inept during the second half.

Berggren has been a rebounding and block machine down low and Jackson, the son of an Ohio State legend, has some of his pops in him, turning into a master of the steal.

“It just shows that we’re capable of competing with and beating anyone,” Berggren said. “When we play our game, when we stick to our rules, play as a team, help each other out, take care of the ball, play solid defense like we take pride in, then we’re capable of beating anyone. I think we’ve shown that the last two days in beating two very good teams.”

A third on Sunday would send them into the stratosphere entering the NCAA Tournament.

Buckeye Breakdown

Revenge and redemption are two longtime game themes in sports. Ohio State will have the opportunity to achieve both Sunday afternoon in Chicago.

On Feb. 17 in Madison, anything that could go wrong went wrong. The Buckeyes were laughed out of the gym, losing 71-49 to Wisconsin. But in a weird way, it jumpstarted the current seven-game win streak Ohio State is on.

Talk to the Buckeyes and they’ll all tell you practices have been more intense and the focus is Marine-esque ever since the blowout loss. Now, to win a Big Ten title, Ohio State is in a must-win against the Badgers.

Get Smart

  • Ohio State and Wisconsin tied the season series 1-1.
  • The Buckeyes aim for their fifth Big Ten Tounrnament title.
  • Thad Matta is fourth among active coaches in March win percentage.
  • Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg, Steve Kerr and Tracy Wolfson have the call.

“I don’t know how these guys feel, but for me it’s personal,” Smith said.

What made the loss that day even more confounding was the fact the Buckeyes beat the Badgers so handily when the two teams got together in Columbus. The margin was nine points in a game Ohio State controlled. Wisconsin dictated the pace, but the Buckeyes beat them at their own game.

Ohio State’s lone senior is looking to go out a winner in the Big Ten Tournament once more. If you think the coaches are going to remind the team what happened in February, ask about another source. Evan Ravenel said Matta and Co. will focus on other matters, not a humbling defeat. The players are fully aware, however.

“It definitely adds a lot of fuel for the game,” sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross said. “It opened our eyes to the rest of the year.”

For that eye-opening experience, if Ohio State’s March journey ends in Atlanta, Matta might send Bo Ryan a Christmas card this winter. The turnaround in less than a month’s time has been nothing short of incredible. During that time period, the Buckeyes have beaten Michigan State twice, Indiana, Minnesota and Illinois. All four teams will hear their names called on the Selection Show later tonight.

“We’ve responded,” sophomore forward Sam Thompson said.

There really wasn’t any other choice, unless Ohio State was content with wallowing while looking in the mirror. The Buckeyes gathered upon returning to Columbus that night and had a heart-to-heart. The result is their current play.

“We aired our issues,” Ravenel said. “We said everything people wanted to hear and didn't want to hear.”

Now, they’re giving their coaches and fans a glimpse of everything they want to see.

4 A. Craft JR 6-2/190 9.6 3.5 4.6 G 1 B. Brust JR 6-1/195 11.4 5.3 2.4
32 L. Smith Jr. JR 6-4/205 9.9 4.9 1.6 G 12 T. Jackson SO 6-2/213 6.8 2.4 2.8
12 S. Thompson SO 6-7/190 7.4 3.4 1.0 F 31 M. Brusewitz SR 6-6/223 6.5 5.3 1.9
1 D. Thomas JR 6-0/225 19.7 6.2 1.3 F 5 R. Evans SR 6-6/208 10.2 7.4 1.9
23 A. Williams SO 6-11/250 3.8 3.9 0.1 C 40 J. Berggren SR 6-10/235 11.3 7.0 0.9



Comments Show All Comments

TLB's picture

Not sure about frankenstein but has a definite grinch look to him. 

RBuck's picture

No Grinch today. Buckeyes get to hang a banner.

Long live the southend.

Grant Edgell's picture

I started with Grinch and couldn't pull it off as accurately as FrankenBo. I'll keep working at it for the NCAA tournament and see what I can come up with.

RedStorm45's picture

Cant wait to see some jump shot free throws today!
Craft says Matta takes the tournament very seriously.  Earlier this week, Matta said something along the lines of "We don't put much stock in it.  We go in with the mentality of let's just have fun." (I paraphrased)
If Wisconsin is 5-1 against IU, Michigan, and Ohio State, how bad are they against the rest of the Big Ten?  Do you reward Bo Ryan for doing so well against the best teams, or should he not win COY for losing to teams like Purdue and Iowa?

AJW_16's picture

Anyone notice the similarity between Screech and Mike Bruesewitz (with his new hair cut)?

"Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you." 

osu07asu10's picture

I think this is a great measuring stick for our team to see how much we've grown since the loss in Madison. I agree with the sentiment that our position as a 2 seed is pretty solidified at this point.
I want to see the guys come out, play loose and have fun and go get a championship and the recognition I believe this team has earned.

CJDPHoS Board of Directors // Best friends with Homey Hache

The 0 is silent.

BuckeyeBoyer85's picture

It's fitting that these two teams are playing for the title, after IU was gifted the reg season championship. All year it's been IU and TTUN getting the accolades, and they have stumbled down the stretch when OSU and UW have clearly been the best teams all month. It proves that no matter how great your offensive firepower is, be it Zeller and Olidipo or Burke and the kids, defense rules this conference. I would love to force some TOs on Brust and Jackson, and get our transition game going early. If UW is getting open looks it could be a long day.

Wayne Woodrow Hayes

tjbucvik23's picture

Today is HUGE. I would love to see something very different. I would love to see the Buckeyes challenge the ball after it's been in bounded. Including occasional traps/double teams in the back court to try to force turnovers. I know many just want more of the same but a high pressure defensive attitude could keep the Badgers of balance.
Anyone know who's wearing Red and who's White today ?

TLB's picture

2 Seed wears white but would love gray

misterpants's picture

For folks who live in and around Chicago, you should be able to score cheap tickets for the game. Thanks to an exodus of Michigan State and Indiana fans, most seats are going for well below face value at the moment.

Bucks43201's picture


"You win with people." - Woody Hayes

Poison nuts's picture

Yeah - I liked that too!

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

PhillyBuckeye27's picture

I would love to beat the cheese weenies today. 

RBuck's picture

Yesterday Thomas and Craft logged in 40 and 39 minutes respectively. Sure as hell hope they still got a lot of legs left in them. Need to get in the face of their 3 point shooters.

Long live the southend.

lakejamesbuck's picture

That is a big worry with Thomas....most of his shots were hitting the front of the rim and that is a sure sign of tired legs.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Good point.
As others mentioned in this thread, today's game is a measuring stick. It's also a grudge match/bragging rights thing. But it will have no bearing on NCAA tournament seeding for either team.
That's why the Buckeyes should not worry about the grudge/bragging rights angle. Play deep into the bench today, pressure all over the floor, but then play deliberately on offense when the break is not there (and it rarely is against Wisc.).
They can use the game as a different kind of measuring stick instead getting into WWIII (like the game they won yesterday). Like, tell Ravenel and Williams to be unusually aggressive on offense even though Wisc packs it in tight; give Q the green light; let Amadeo play for 5-6 minutes; etc.     

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Whisky is going down and Bo will have to "Deal with it!"
Go Bucks

Dean's picture

Or perhaps ZomBo Ryan?

lakejamesbuck's picture

It is hard to believe the Bucks are making this run with Thomas and Smith struggling. I know Thomas is still getting points but he is definitely in a funk. Today would be a great day for these two guys to light up the Badgers.  Would love to see Thompson take a few more shots...his stroke is looking sweet right now.

Idaho Helga's picture

Ok this is off topic but I  just found this and it's too good not to share.  Forgive me if this is old news to  you.

Kevbo714's picture

I don't mind seeing that poster again :) Thanks for the smile

Tom Crean listens to Nickelback...

Run_Fido_Run's picture

I'm waiting with bated breath to see if Michigan gets paired with Akron in the first round. 

lakejamesbuck's picture

How sweet it would be for another "OHIO" team to take them out!!!!

Idaho Helga's picture

And if I'm Akron I want to play them.  If I'm going to get paired with a high seed, I wanna play a team who is 6-6 in their last 12 games.

Poison nuts's picture

If Ohio State had been playing IU, a loss today would not have bothered me too badly for some reason, but because of that blowout in Madison, I hope our boys absolutely dominate this game today.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

Nick's picture

I would love a 20+ point win

I_Run_The_Dave's picture

I'm wearing my Brutus O'Buckeye shirt today, so we're destined to win, right?

TLB's picture

A10 game dangerously close to overtime again