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Wisconsin Badgers Basketball Preview: Ohio State edition 2.0

The Basics:

Where: Columbus, OH; Value City Arena (18,809)
When: Thursday, Feb. 23; 8p.m. CT
Channel: ESPN (Rece Davis and Dan Dakich)
Spread: Wisconsin -4.5
All-Time Series: Ohio State leads 86-70
Last Meeting: UW won, 79-68, on Jan. 12, 2017 (in Madison, Wis.)

Wisconsin heads on the road for what most seasons would be an absolutely brutal trip. However, a two-game road trip against Ohio State and Michigan State doesn’t have the same ring to it this season.

Still, Wisconsin can’t take any game lightly this season. The Big Ten has been insane, and Purdue’s narrow escape at Penn State earlier this week should be a good reminder to not take anything lightly.

UW must also put a 23-point win over the Buckeyes at the Kohl Center in the way back of the mind. It was easily Wisconsin’s most complete game of the season, but it was also the Buckeyes’ worst performance of the year.

Can the Badgers build off the huge second half surge against Maryland on Sunday and hit their stride heading in to postseason play? Winning this game is the first step towards believing things are changing for the better with this Badgers team.

Projected Starting Lineups

Ohio State Buckeyes

G Kam Williams — Jr. 6-2, 185 (10.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.0 apg)
G CJ Jackson — So. 6-1, 175 (4.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.8 apg)
F Jae’Sean Tate — Jr. 6-4, 230 (14.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.9 apg)
F Marc Loving — Sr. 6-8, 220 (12.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.9 apg)
C Trevor Thompson — Jr. 7-0, 250 (10.7 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 0.4 apg)

No. 16 Wisconsin Badgers (21-5, 10-3)

G Bronson Koenig — Sr. 6-3, 190 (13.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.1 apg)
G Zak Showalter — Sr. 6-3, 185 (8.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.8 apg)
F Nigel Hayes Sr. 6-8, 240 (13.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.8 apg)
F Vitto Brown Sr. 6-8, 235 (7.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.0 apg)
C Ethan Happ — So. 6-10, 280 (14.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.9 apg)

Matchup to Watch: Ethan Happ vs. Trevor Thompson

For those who don’t remember the first meeting between these teams, it was way back when the Badger were firing on all cylinders. As in they dominated the boards, had a 20-point advantage in points in the paint and did it all without Ethan Happ’s best day.

Fast forward to today’s Wisconsin Badgers team and I’m not so sure they can win a game that Happ doesn’t perform well in. The second half comeback against Maryland was all driven by Happ’s ability to get hot and allow others like Nigel Hayes the freedom to be a dominate player as well.

Trevor Thompson was a key factor in getting in to Happ’s head in the previous matchup, putting in 11 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Wisconsin can’t rely on a repeat of its best offensive performance of the season.

Winning this individual battle on the night would be very helpful to Wisconsin’s chances on the road.

3 Numbers to Know

— .583: That is Wisconsin’s win percentage against Thad Matta-coached teams at OSU. UW is 14-10 all-time against Matta’s Buckeyes, which is actually the best record of any team in the Big Ten against OSU since Matta arrived in Columbus. The next closest is Michigan State at 15-2.

— 70: Wisconsin has held OSU to 70 points or less in 21 of 24 matchups in the Thad Matta era. It actually is way better than that, with the Badgers holding the Buckeyes to an average of 60.3 points per game in that 24-game span. UW has held opponents to 60.5 points per game on this season and help OSU to a season-low 66 points earlier this season at the Kohl Center.

— 0-6: That is Ohio State’s record against ranked opponents this season. It just so happens that the Badgers are one of those six losses so far this season. Those six losses have come by an average of just nine points per game. Only Wisconsin’s 23-point win and UCLA’s 13-point win were over double digit defeats for the Buckeyes.

 

Prediction

Wisconsin 74, Ohio State 62

This has been one of the worst seasons in recent Ohio State Buckeyes basketball history. Conversely, it has been one of the best starts in UW basketball history. That’s not good news for the Buckeyes if you ask me.

Sure, they may want revenge for the most lop-sided loss of the year, but that only goes so far in motivating a team to be up for a game. It is hard to see the Badgers letting up enough defensively to not stay in this game regardless of what happens on the offensive side of the ball.

Look for a much healthier Bronson Koenig to get going and for Ethan Happ to show up offensively unlike the first matchup. It all adds up to a Wisconsin team that keeps pace with Purdue at the top of the conference standings.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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