The Badgers and Buckeyes will do battle today at 4 PM with almost everything on the line.
Ohio State (25-3, 13-1 Big Ten) will honor a pair of seniors, Ron Lewis and Ivan Harris, playing their final games as Buckeyes in Value City Arena with what they hope will be a victory against Wisconsin and an outright Big Ten Championship. Wisconsin (26-3, 12-2 Big Ten), meanwhile, are hoping for at least a co-title.
Although the Badgers are coming off a loss to Michigan State on the road on Tuesday of this week, they're ranked No. 1 in the country in the AP Poll and No. 2 in the Coaches Poll. Ohio State on the other hand is ranked No. 1 in the Coaches and No. 2 in the AP - the first time in the history of the two polls that No. 1 has faced No. 1.
Beyond championships, senior day, conference pride and lofty national rankings is a nationally televised game with possible seeding implications. Not only will Wisconsin and Ohio State fight out 40 minutes to possibly determine the conference champion, but interested NCAA Tournament selection committee members will most certainly have their eyes cast on the important match-up to help determine a possible No. 1-seed when the bracket is announced in two weeks.
Sunday is a chance for redemption for Ohio state, who earlier this season suffered a 72-69 defeat in Madison. Wisconsin held a double-digit second-half lead before the Buckeyes stormed back and had a chance to tie as the buzzer sounded when a Jamar Butler three-pointer clanked off the back of the iron.
That game, played back on Jan. 9, featured stellar frontcourt defense on Ohio State's 7-1 center Greg Oden. The freshman was limited to 10 points and seven rebounds. He had just two points until the last seven minutes.
Wisconsin's Big Ten Player of the Year candidate, Alando Tucker, had a slightly less-than-average evening with 17 points in the first meeting. However, it was guard Kammron Taylor that picked up the slack for the Badgers with 25 points. Taylor was 12-of-16 from the free throw line.
Tucker remains the key to Ohio State's success this afternoon. With just three games remaining, Tucker is backing up the reputation as being the Big Ten's best player. Tucker is scoring 20.2 points a game and has shot 48 percent while adding 5.3 rebounds. Taylor is the only other Badger averaging double-figures this season with 12.8 points per game.
Of the few positives from the January meeting between the two teams, Ohio State had four players in double-figures including seniors Lewis and Harris. Harris scored 17 while Lewis added 14 for the Buckeyes, who shot 12-of-26 from three-point range. The two specifically combined on 8-of-16 that evening but Ohio State turned the ball over 15 times for the game.
It's been a different story of late.
The Buckeyes have committed fewer than 10 turnovers in five of the last six ball games. Heading into the weekend, Ohio State was No. 13 nationally in offensive efficiency - points per 100 possessions.
Ohio State would love nothing more than a banner day once again for Lewis and Harris, former Ohio schoolboys. While Lewis played high school at Columbus Brookhaven, Harris was a former McDonald's All-American at Oak Hill Academy by way of Springfield South High School as a junior.
This season Lewis is averaging 11.4 points per game but he's seen his field goal percentage plummet to 41 percent and 32.5 percent from behind the arc. Harris has also been in something of a slump, watching his production dip to 8.5 points per game, down from nearly 11 points last month.
The Buckeyes are hoping to keep a number of streaks intact. First and foremost, Ohio State is winners of their last 12 games and their last 11 Big Ten games. With wins against Wisconsin and Michigan, Ohio State would tie the school record for victories within the conference with 15. The last time Ohio State did that, in 1991 and 1992, the Buckeyes played 18 games instead of 16 during the regular season.
Ohio State is also riding a 24-game home winning streak. The Buckeyes last lost in Columbus Jan. 15 of last season against Michigan State.
What: Ohio State (25-3, 13-1 Big Ten) vs. Wisconsin (26-3, 12-2 Big Ten)
Where: Value City Arena; Columbus, Ohio
When: Today, 4 PM ET
TV: CBS National (Verne Lundquist and Billy Packer)
Series: Ohio State leads 81-63
PG Kammron Taylor (6-2 Sr.) - 12.8 PPG, 40.8 percent 3-point FG
SG Michael Flowers (6-2 Jr.) - 7.6 PPG, 3.1 APG
SF Alando Tucker (6-6 Sr.) - 20.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG
PF Brian Butch (6-11 Jr.) - 9.1 PPG, 6.0 RPG
C Jason Chappell (6-10 Sr.) - 3.4 PPG, 3.0 RPG
PG Mike Conley (6-1 Fr.) - 10.0 PPG, 6.3 APG
SG Jamar Butler (6-2 Jr.) - 8.9 PPG, 3.6 APG
SF Ron Lewis (6-5 Sr.) - 11.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG
PF Ivan Harris (6-8 Sr.) - 8.5 PPG, 3.4 RPG
C Greg Oden (7-1 Fr.) - 15.5 PPG, 9.7 RPG