NO. 3 OHIO STATE (19-3, 7-2 Big Ten) AT NO. 20 WISCONSIN (18-5, 7-3 Big Ten)
Time/TV: 2 p.m./ESPN
Location: Kohl Center in Madison, Wisc.
Ohio State 5 (No. 1 Big Ten)
Wisconsin 19 (No. 4 Big Ten)
Line: Ohio St +2 (o/u 114)
Ohio State Players to Watch: F Jared Sullinger, 6-9 So. (17.1 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 58.8% FG); G William Buford, 6-6 Sr. (15 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.3 apg); F Deshaun Thomas, 6-7 So. (14.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 54% FG). With 12 points in Sunday’s 64-49 win over Michigan, Buford is within one point of Jay Burson for seven place on the all-time Buckeye scoring list. He currently has 1,756 points.
Wisconsin Players to Watch: G Jordan Taylor, 6-1 Sr. (14.1 ppg, 4.3 apg, 4.2 rpg); C Jared Berggren, 6-10 Jr. (10.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 46.3% FG); F Ryan Evans, 6-6 Jr. (9.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.2 bpg). Taylor had a great all-around performance in Tuesday’s 52-46 win over Penn State with 18 points, five assists, three rebounds and a steal and carried the Badgers down the stretch in a key road victory. After starting slowly this season, Taylor has scored in double-figures in 13 straight games.
Storylines: The Badgers have won six straight and the Buckeyes own a four-game winning streak to take the top two spots in the Big Ten. After a 1-3 start in league play, Wisconsin is 7-3 and a half-game back of leader 7-2 Ohio State.
Keys: Wisconsin handed Ohio State its first loss of the season, 71-67 at year ago in Madison. The Buckeyes had an early 15-point lead, but Taylor scored 27 points to lead the Badgers back for the win. The Buckeyes later returned the favor with a 93-65 thrashing in Columbus. Ohio State leads the nation in scoring margin, beating opponents by an average of 21.7 points per game. Starting Saturday, five of Ohio State’s next nine opponents are ranked, including Wisconsin twice. The Badgers go to Columbus on Feb. 25. Lenzelle Smith Jr. is starting to become a factor for the Buckeyes. The sophomore guard had a career-high 28 points and seven rebounds in a Jan. 25 win over Indiana then scored 17 points and grabbed a career-high 12 boards in 33 minutes in Sunday’s 64-49 win over No. 22 Michigan. The Badgers have an advantage at the foul line, which could be crucial in a close game. The Badgers shoot 71.1 percent from the foul line, while Ohio State is 10th in the Big Ten at 68.7. Both teams play stingy defense. Wisconsin is the league’s best – and the nation’s best – giving up 36.3 percent from the field. The Buckeyes are third-best in the Big Ten and rank No. 24 in America, allowing 39.1 percent. The Badgers also allow just 26.8 percent from the 3-point line, which is fifth-best in all of college basketball. OSU allows 31.6 from deep. Ohio State is second in the Big Ten in rebounding margin at plus-7.6; Wisconsin is fourth at 3.5. The Buckeyes lead the Big Ten in turnover margin (plus-6.2) and are third in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4The Buckeyes lead the Big Ten in turnover margin (plus-6.2) and are third in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4-to-1). Ohio State trails only Indiana in the Big Ten with 77.3 points per game. Wisconsin leads the nation, allowing just 49.5 per contest. OSU is 3-3 in true road games this season. The Badgers are an uncharacteristic 11-3 at home, but they have won their last three over Nebraska, Northwestern and then-No. 17 Indiana.
The Bottom Line: Wisconsin still struggles to score at times. The Buckeyes will have no such trouble with Sullinger dominating the game inside.
The Pick: Ohio State 72, Wisconsin 61
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 55-29