The Matchup: Wisconsin (13-9, 5-4 B1G) vs. Ohio State (14-9, 6-4 B1G)
When: Thurs., Feb. 4; 6p.m. CT
Where: Madison, WI; Kohl Center (17,287)
Radio: Badgers Sports Network
Last Meeting: Wisconsin won, 72-48 @ OSU (3/8/15)
All-Time Series: OSU leads 86-68
Ohio State Buckeyes
G JaQuan Lyle — Fr. 6-5, 201 (9.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.0 apg)
F Marc Loving — Jr. 6-7, 220 (13.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.5 apg)
F Keita Bates-Diop — So. 6-7, 235 (11.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.1 apg)
F Jae’Sean Tate — So. 6-4, 225 (11.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.6 apg)
C Trevor Thompson — So. 6-11, 250 (6.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.2 apg)
G Bronson Koenig — Jr. 6-4, 193 (13.4 pgg, 2.5 rpg, 2.2 apg)
G Zak Showalter — Jr. 6-2, 180 (7.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.1 apg)
F Vitto Brown — Jr. 6-8, 230 (8.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.5 apg)
F Nigel Hayes — Jr. 6-8, 240 (17.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.5 apg)
F Ethan Happ — Fr. 6-9, 235 (12.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 0.9 apg)
Biggest Matchup: Keita Bates-Diop vs. Nigel Hayes
Teams keep throwing the kitchen sink at Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ and they keep losing as of late. Ohio State will have a very interesting matchup on their hands up front, but the one matchup that is going to be really interesting is Ohio-native Hayes vs. OSU sophomore Beita-Diop. Both have good jumper games, but it could be which one stays out of foul trouble and can get going from the field that will matter more.
Hayes has been uncanny with his ability to get major players for the opposition in a ton of foul trouble, and Bates-Diop has given up just 17 fouls in Big Ten play. Something in this scenario is going to have to give and whichever way it goes is likely going to tell us all how this game is going to play out. That, more than anything is the reason this is the biggest one-on-one matchup of the game.
3 Numbers to Know:
— 60: Wisconsin has held Ohio State to 60 points or less in each of the last seven matchups. UW also happens to be pretty good at keeping opponents to under 60 points in Big Ten play, doing so in four of the nine B1G games this season. UW also happens to be 5-1 in conference play when scoring more than 60 points in a game.
— 22.0: Forward Nigel Hayes is averaging 22.0 points per game over the last four games, while also being just 1 of 2 players in the Big Ten to average 16.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.5 points per game.
—22.3: Getting to the free throw line has been key, as the Badgers rank second in the conference with an average of 22.3 free throw attempts per game. UW could reach even higher though, averaging 32.0 free throw attempts over the last four games. OSU by contrast is averaging just over 20 free throw attempts on the season and 21.4 per game in conference play.
Prediction: Wisconsin 66, OSU 58
Wisconsin has hit its stride as of late, and while OSU will give a great test to the recent form of the Badgers it is hard to see how this isn’t a good matchup for Wisconsin. It’s hard to not notice that every team knows what is coming — mainly UW pounding the ball and getting to the free throw line — and not being able to stop it.
The Buckeyes come in to this game shooting just 65 percent from the free throw line, and Wisconsin much higher. It’s not exactly a recipe for road success, and it is a big part of why I see the Badgers winning this one.
Of course, winning five straight is no easy task in the Big Ten. Call this one a gut feeling, because something is undeniably different for the Badgers under Greg Gard. Look for this to be another sign of things changing for the positive for Wisconsin.