Wisconsin Basketball heads to Columbus to close out regular season play against a desperate Ohio State team.
It is no exaggeration to say that Ohio State’s season will be on the line when they host Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon.
There was a time earlier in the season (fairly recently, in fact) when the Buckeyes looked to be a sure-fire NCAA Tournament team. However, those days are gone, and they are officially on the bubble, perhaps even on the outside looking in at this point.
Ohio State is currently sitting at 18-12, but the Buckeyes have an 8-11 record in conference play and are playing their worst ball of the year at the most inopportune time. They have mustered just a 6-11 record since the calendar turned to 2019 and have lost three of their last five, including two straight embarrassing defeats to Purdue (by a whopping 35 points) and the Big Ten’s worst team, Northwestern (18 points).
Chris Holtmann’s squad desperately needs to take down Wisconsin to feel good about its chances on Selection Sunday. Should the Buckeyes drop their third straight to the Badgers, they would likely need a couple of wins in the Big Ten tournament to get themselves on the right side of the bubble, a fairly daunting prospect given the depth of the conference this season.
Ohio State may be trending downward, but you know the saying: a cornered animal is the most dangerous kind. I would expect the Buckeyes to give the Badgers-who have not played particularly well as a whole in recent weeks- one heck of a battle.
No. 21 WISCONSIN (21-9)
G – D’Mitrik Trice – SO (12.1 ppg)
G – Brad Davison- SO (10.8 ppg)
F – Khalil Iverson – SR (5.9 ppg)
F – Nathan Reuvers – SO (8.1 ppg)
C – Ethan Happ – SR (17.9 ppg)
OHIO STATE (18-12)
G – Keyshawn Woods – SR (7.0 ppg)
G – Luther Muhammad – FR (8.2 ppg)
F – Justin Ahrens – FR (3.3 ppg)
F – Kyle Young – SO (6.6 ppg)
F – Andre Wesson – JR (8.6 ppg)
Keys to the game and prediction
Wisconsin has certainly gotten lucky with opponent suspensions lately: first Iowa’s head coach Fran McCaffery, and now Ohio State’s star center Kaleb Wesson, who is being forced to sit out as a result of an unspecified violation of the university’s athletic department policy.
While the absence of McCaffery probably didn’t do the Hawkeyes any favors in their ugly loss to the Badgers, the loss of Wesson is by far a more crippling blow. The 6’9 sophomore, who has been Ohio State’s best player this season and is averaging 14.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, has already sat out the Buckeyes’ games against Purdue and Northwestern. It probably isn’t a coincidence that his team lost both contests in embarrassing fashion.
It has been confirmed that Wesson will sit out against Wisconsin as well. If the Buckeyes thought they were in trouble without his burly presence down low against the Boilermakers and Wildcats, things are about to get a whole lot worse against the Badgers, who are bringing to town an All-American and Player of the Year candidate in the post named Ethan Happ.
In Wesson, Ohio State boasts one of the few players in the Big Ten capable of effectively containing Happ on his own, without help from double-teams. Unfortunately, that doesn’t do the Buckeyes much good if he’s not on the court. Without his star center, Holtmann lacks another option capable of playing Happ straight up, and like so many other opposing coaches facing the Badgers this season, he will have to pick his poison between letting Wisconsin’s star get his or sending double-teams and leaving Brad Davison, D’Mitrik Trice, and company with open looks from the perimeter.
It’s a lose-lose situation for an already-struggling team that severely tilts the balance in favor of the Badgers in this one.
To make matters worse for the Buckeyes, two other key contributors in Kyle Young (6.6 ppg) and C.J. Jackson (11.8 ppg) have been hampered by injuries lately and may not be 100 percent on Sunday. If they are going to take down a team as solid as the Badgers without their best player and leading scorer in Wesson, they need big performances from both, but especially from Jackson, who is second on the team in scoring.
While Ohio State’s desperation and home court advantage make them dangerous, I just think the Buckeyes will have too steep a hill to climb on Sunday to get the win in the end. The loss of Wesson, combined with a supporting cast that is struggling and does not look to be fully healthy, will be too much to overcome in a matchup with a Wisconsin squad that’s feeling confident after an invigorating beatdown of Iowa. The Badgers will also have a chip on their shoulder to get revenge for the 83-58 shellacking it suffered at the Kohl Center in their last meeting with the Buckeyes last season.
Badgers roll, 64-54.
All stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com