The Buckeyes (18-9, 7-6) last played on Feb. 19 when they lost 52-50 at Minnesota.
The Badgers (17-7, 8-5) are coming off a 77-64 loss at Michigan State on Thursday.
As usual, Wisconsin is solid across the board. Its marquee players are: 6-5 sophomore forward Alando Tucker (14.8 points per game, 6.7 rebounds per game) and 6-8 senior forward Mike Wilkinson (14.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg).
Rounding out the Badgers' starting lineup is: 6-2 sophomore guard Kammron Taylor (8.7 ppg, 1.7 assists per game), 6-1 senior guard Sharif Chambliss (8.3 ppg, 2.8 apg) and 6-8 senior forward Zach Morley (7.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg).
The top two players off the bench are: 6-5 senior guard Clayton Hanson (6.6 ppg, 2.0 apg) and 6-11 freshman F/C Brian Butch (4.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg). Hanson could start in place of Morley, but both players will see plenty of action.
Sunday's game is nearing a sellout. Ohio State will retire John Havlicek's No. 5 jersey and it could be a memorable day for the Buckeyes.
"It really could be a special day," Groce said. "We're excited about the environment. Obviously we had the sellout for the Michigan game and that was the first one (in over a year). And then to have a sellout on Sunday and then we have another one coming up in a week after the Wisconsin game (against No. 1 Illinois), which is great. I think it's great for our guys. They deserve that for how hard they've worked and really all the challenges they've been through mentally with the postseason situation. They deserve this way to go out these last couple home games in the Schott."
After more than a week without a game, the Bucks are just happy to get back at it.
"We are," Groce said. "This time of the year a lot of people talk about the February grind. It is hard on players this time of the year when you have eight days between games. They're itching to play in a game and hopefully that will carry over to Sunday and we'll be rip-roaring, ready to play."
Groce was asked about Wisconsin's slow-down style on offense and why it has been so successful for them. But he says it's the Badgers' defense that makes them so tough to beat.
"Each team in the Big Ten poses different challenges," he said. "The thing about Wisconsin is that they are so good defensively – a lot of people emphasize how they play offensively, and they do play at a slower pace. But a lot of times the game is that pace because of how physical and tough they are defensively. A lot of times they bring the shot clock into play on their defensive end. So, we've really spent a lot of time this week really trying to sharpen our offense. Execute a lot of our half-court – not only our sets – but also our motions so we're ready to go against them on Sunday."
With only a few games left in the season, Ohio State's players could be a little extra fired up on Sunday.
"I think it's on our seniors' minds that they only have two home games left to play and four more guaranteed games," Groce said. "But, in terms of revving up the guys… the one thing that Thad as done a great job of is that he's kept these guys mentally and physically fresh. Our problem, even in our recent loss to Minnesota certainly had nothing to do with intensity or effort. I think we've continued to get better because they've been able to rev it up when the games have been played. When that jump ball happens, they are ready to go. Effort has not been our problem at all and that's to the credit to our guys."
The beat goes on for OSU center Terence Dials. The 6-9 junior continues to lead the Buckeyes in scoring (15.6 ppg) and rebounding (8.0 rpg) and appears to be headed for All-Big Ten honors (possibly the first team).
Even with the postseason ban, Dials says this season has been more enjoyable for the players because the Bucks have a winning team.
"Yeah, this season feels exciting just to be playing," he said. "Last year, a lot of the guys I could tell were just ready for the season to be over because we were so bad and things weren't going our way. So, I think now we can be spoilers for a lot of things and we're still playing for a Big Ten Tournament championship and for our season I think it's going to be big for us."
Dials came to practice Friday with a freshly shaven head. It was reminiscent of the 2002 Big Ten and NCAA tournaments when most of the entire team shaved their heads.
"I think we're all beyond that," Dials joked about the 2002 squad. "I don't think that's going to happen again. A lot of guys are scared their hair won't grow up and they'll look old. So, I'm the only one to do that."
Dials is looking forward to meeting Havlicek and hearing him speak to the team.
"It's going to be a treat to have a legend come and speak with us and just tell us about his time here at Ohio State and what we have to look forward to in the future," Dials said. "It was a little before my time, but I know he was a great player with the Celtics and a great player here. That's all I really know about him. I haven't seen him play."
If the Buckeyes are going to make it a successful homecoming for "Hondo" they will need to contain Wisconsin's Wilkinson. He seems to have some of his best games against the Buckeyes.
"I just want to limit his touches," Dials said. "I think any good player, you want to limit his touches because once he gets the ball he's so dangerous. So, that's what our focus has been for a lot of these practices. Just try and limit his touches and when he gets the ball, crowd the floor a little bit and try and make it more difficult to score."
Dials enjoyed the week off from playing games.
"The week off was much needed," he said. "A lot of guys were a little banged up and it gave us a chance to rest. (Matta) gave us two days off. Guys feel pretty good right now."
For OSU junior forward Matt Sylvester, it's been an extremely long week. He was suspended for the Minnesota game, so he is more than ready to get back on the floor.
"It has been a long week," Slyvester said. "Three days ago I wanted it to be Sunday and I've wanted it to be Sunday ever since. It's going to be an unbelievable atmosphere. Hondo is in the house and he was one of my idols growing up. Even though he was before my time, just seeing old-school film on him and he's actually my dad's favorite player."
Sylvester's father, Mike, was a star forward at the University of Dayton from 1970-74. He will also be in attendance on Sunday.
"Oh yeah, my dad will be at the game," Sylvester said. "For sure, he'll be there."
Mike Sylvester played professionally in Europe for 17 years.
"He was a forward," Matt said. "He is about 6-5, so I've got about two inches on him. But he was just an unbelievably aggressive, active player. Unbelievable defender. Really, like a Hondo-type player. Could do it all and extremely aggressive. He really idolizes John Havlicek."
* Havlicek lettered from 1960-62 at OSU and later starred for the NBA's Boston Celtics. He helped the Buckeyes to three-consecutive trips to the NCAA Final Four and three national championship games during his career. The Buckeyes won the 1960 NCAA title and were runners-up in 1961 and 1962.
* As a Buckeye, Havlicek scored 1,223 points (14.6 ppg.) and grabbed 720 rebounds (8.6 rpg). He ranks 25th all-time in career scoring at Ohio State and is one of just 41 players all-time to score more than 1,000 points. The Buckeyes were 78-6 during his career. He was a two-time All-Big Ten selection and a first-team All-American as a senior in 1962.
* A member of the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., Havlicek made nearly 51 percent of his shots from the field and 73 percent of his free throws at OSU. As a senior, he averaged 17.0 points and almost 10 rebounds a game.
* Havlicek is the fourth Ohio State men's basketball player to have his number retired. He joins No. 11 Jerry Lucas (Feb. 23, 2000), No. 35 Gary Bradds (Jan. 27, 2001) and No. 22 Jim Jackson (Feb. 10, 2001).
* Dials is closing in on his 1,000th career point. He passed the 900 career point plateau with 11 points against Purdue Feb. 2. He has 990 points for his career with at least four games remaining in the 2004-05 season. He is on pace to reach 1,000 at home against Wisconsin Sunday.
* He would become the 42nd player in Ohio State history to score 1,000 career points in an OSU uniform. The last player to reach 1,000 points was Brent Darby during the 2002-03 campaign. He finished his career with 1,368 career points, good for the No. 20 spot in OSU career scoring history.