The Badgers (14-6, 5-2 B1G) will look to keep the momentum going off of their 45-44 win over Minnesota as they travel to the Buckeye state Tuesday to take on #11 Ohio State (15-4, 5-2 B1G). The game will be televised on ESPN and you can catch the action at 6 PM CT.
It's interesting to point out that the Badgers have played the most ranked teams in the country at 7, and are 3-3 in those games. The last road win for Wisconsin was their 64-59 upset over Indiana; exactly two weeks ago.
This matchup has blossomed in to a very intriguing rivalry the last few years, dating back to '07 when the Badgers and Buckeyes met as #1 and #2 respectively. Since then we've seen some intense battles, including Wisconsin's upset of the #1 and 24-0 Buckeyes in 2011; a game in which Bo Ryan coined the term "Deal With It".
The game most fresh in my memory though is last season's final meeting between the two squads. The Badgers marched in to Columbus and battled hard. Jared Berggren willed the Badgers at the end of the game and hit a go-ahead three pointer with 31 seconds to play that propelled the Badgers to a 63-60 victory.
This year's Buckeye team is a bit different from the ones we've seen in the past. This team doesn't have that dominant post presence like Greg Oden or Jared Sullinger. However, they still have a hell of a Point Guard in Aaron Craft, who has ran the OSU offense the past two seasons.
Craft was responsible for guarding Jordan Taylor the past two seasons, and really showed how great of an defense presence he has in those games against Wisconsin. This year Craft has upped his numbers in almost every category, averaging 8.8 points, 4.7 assists and 3.3 rebounds a game along with two steals per contest.
The most surprising aspect of Ohio State's season thus far has been the emergence of Junior Small Forward Deshaun Thomas. Averaging an astonishing 20 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists a game, Thomas has really carried this Buckeye squad to where they are now. He has been extremely efficient also, shooting a ridiculous 46.8% from the field and only throwing away 1.4 turnovers a game.
The problem OSU has had this season is that at times the team relies too much on Deshaun Thomas' production. Their offense often gets in to modes like Wisconsin experienced with Jordan Taylor last year; 4 guys standing around on the perimeter watching their star try to create a shot.
The Key for the Badgers in this game is obviously to contain Deshaun Thomas. He's going to get his 15-25 points in this game, but Wisconsin needs to make him work for it. Mike Bruesewitz is a key player in this one. Bruiser had a fantastic defensive effort against Indiana's Victor Oladipo and look for him to look to do the same tonight.
This game comes down to the Badgers' energy. In their two Big Ten road games this season, the Badgers have showed up with two different identities. The first was a gritty, aggressive, fearless Wisconsin team at Indiana that looked like it was a legitimate threat at a Big Ten title. The other was a lazy, lethargic, offensively-challenge squad against Iowa that looked like it was destined for the NIT.
Which Wisconsin team will show up? It's anyone's guess.
If the Badgers can play sound defensively with good ball movement and shot selection on the offensive end, there's no reason they shouldn't win this game. Will they? Who knows.
Prediction: #11 Ohio State 61, Wisconsin 54