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Ohio State



Big 10

College Basketball Pick


From the outside, this Game may not look like much, but for two storied programs, this is the type of Game that could decide Tournament fates. Both Wisconsin and Ohio State are expected to be bubble teams this year, and whoever wins this matchup will have the leg up for one of those last March Madness bids.

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Wisconsin has the worse record (one less win), but they’ll be favored in this one, not just because it’s in Madison. The Badgers are quietly on a Four-Game winning streak after starting Conference play 1-4. They’ve won two road Games against weaker teams as well as taken down two ranked teams at home in Michigan State and Indiana. A rough Schedule awaits, but a win here would definitely put them on some radars.

Things haven’t been going as well for Ohio State, who is just 3-4 in its last seven Conference Games after winning the first three. The Buckeyes have had chances to get that big Conference win, but just haven’t been able to with all of their Big Ten losses against ranked teams. The most recent being a tight 66-61 loss to Maryland on Sunday. The Bucks need to get on a run soon, or it will be too late by the time Selection Sunday rolls around.

Both of these teams have been playing slow-it-down basketball in low-scoring Games throughout the season. Neither has enough scoring to really compete against the top teams. Wisconsin, with a better defense, has been able to do that more consistently.

In addition to the Badgers’ winning streak and playing at home, they also have the best player in this Game in Nigel Hayes. The biggest reason for their recent success has been the play of Hayes, who has taken over Games, most notably dropping 56 points combined against Michigan State and Indiana, making 26 free throws in the process. His size and talent combo is often unmatched and a reason he’s so dominant.

Ohio State will likely use multiple big men on Hayes, starting out with Daniel Giddens and Marc Loving. But part of the reason for Hayes’ success can be contributed to how much freshman Ethan Happ has improved. Happ provides another big option for the Badgers, which means teams can’t focus exclusively on Hayes in the paint. Then of course Bronson Koenig still runs the point for Wisconsin and he actually hasn’t played well in the last three Games, although went for 27 against Michigan State.

That’s where the problems come in for the Buckeyes. They don’t have performers that can do their job on any given night. Their best players, Loving, Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate, all have trouble with consistency. Those guys can all have huge Games, but that’s never really happened at the same time.

Another issue for both of these teams is that they don’t have that great of shooters. Koenig is solid for Wisconsin, but elsewhere it’s Hayes and Zak Showalter or no one else. Ohio State has a few more guys that have range, but it’s not something they can rely on every Game.

The Buckeyes won their last road Game (at Illinois), but against semi-decent teams, have had major issues. With how the Badgers have played as of late, it’d be hard to go against them, especially with Hayes playing at an all-Conference level.

Wisconsin 70 Ohio State 62

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