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The road has not been easy for the top teams in the Big 10 this year and Madison usually isn't a kind place for opponents. This should leave Wisconsin with the advantage, but after looking at the numbers, this game could be as close to a tossup there is.
Here are the Badgers last four home games: OT win over Michigan after half court buzzer beater in regulation, double OT win over Iowa, one-point win over Minnesota, two-point loss to Michigan State while shooting less than 40% from the free-throw line. For Ohio State against the top teams in the Big 10 on the road, they lost in overtime to Michigan last week and lost by only three points at East Lansing back in January.
Obviously, the Badgers have the advantage playing at home, but anything can happen when this game will be inevitably close in the final minutes.
Wisconsin is coming off a tough loss in what happened to be their third straight game that went to overtime. That doesn't happen very often. After winning the first two, a couple costly mistakes by the Badgers did them in as they lost in Minnesota. Ohio State won their game on Thursday, but it wasn't the prettiest of results as they had to fight until the end with Northwestern. Deshaun Thomas didn't have a great shooting day which was the Buckeyes main problem even though he still had 22 points. The other four starters stepped up and put in quality minutes.
The last time these teams played, it was the other way around for the Buckeyes. Thomas was hitting his shots and Wisconsin couldn't stop him. The only other starter with more than five points in that game was Aaron Craft who's more known for his defensive prowess. In that contest, the Badgers struggled all game. They hit 11 three-pointers, but that was about all they were good for. Ryan Evans went 1-for-10 with two points and no one surpassed 12 points.
No one has really stopped Thomas completely this year, so it probably won't be a priority for the Badgers to do so. Thomas is averaging 20 points per game this year, but actually 21 PPG in losses. As one can see, you don't beat Ohio State by stopping Thomas because it's not a realistic possibility. Wisconsin will try and slow this game down as much as possible and try and limit Craft's ability to drive the lane. When Craft can get in the lane, that's when the other plays can hurt you. Lenzelle Smith Jr. has shown he can step in for the big shots and will be a key part for Ohio State's offense. The rest of the squad is inconsistent and it's a guess who will be able to step up.
As for Wisconsin's offense, it's limited to say the least. Leading scorer Jared Berggren was seemingly in a funk for most of January but looks to be out of it. Still, his eight points don't look all that great at Minnesota. Guard Ben Brust has been the Badgers spark on offense of late. He will likely get a matchup with Craft which could be a problem for Wisconsin. That's why more Badgers will need to step up. Evans can't have another two-point performance. Traevon Jackson can't go 3-for-14 from the field like he did against Minnesota. Wisconsin has a good squad, but will continue to find themselves in close games because of an inefficient offense.
This will end up being another close game with the loser dropping to fifth-place in the Big 10 standings. Neither school wants to be in that position.
Predicted Score - Wisconsin 58 Ohio State 57
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