Wisconsin has a rare opportunity tomorrow. A few months ago they ruined Ohio State’s perfect season in football with a convincing win at Camp Randall Stadium. Tomorrow they have the chance to do the same thing in basketball. The very idea sends a collective shudder through Buckeye Nation.
The odds favor the Badgers. They have a well-coached, talented team — and Wisconsin is ridiculously hard to beat at the Kohl Center. Bo Ryan’s record there is absurdly good. Thad Matta, who has a fine Big Ten road record since he began coaching the Buckeyes, has never beaten Wisconsin at the Kohl Center. And if, like me, you are a Buckeye fan who believes in karma, your heart must have sank when you saw Wisconsin recently pull out a gritty road win against Iowa in a game where Wisconsin simply could not knock down a shot. That probably means that the Badgers will be lights out tomorrow.
Tomorrow’s game should be a real treat for college basketball fans. Both teams play solid basketball and sound defense. Both teams have experience and players who are in contention for all-conference honors. In Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin has two players who would be welcome on any team in the country, and they are backed by a complement of players who can shoot the 3, crash the boards, and run Wisconsin’s deliberate offense to perfection. Both teams have great coaches who are perennial winners. If you are Ohio State, you are hoping that Jared Sullinger plays at the same high level he has displayed all season and that David Lighty and Jon Diebler, as seniors, help the Buckeyes navigate through the rough patches that undoubtedly will occur before the screaming Kohl Center crowd.
This will be a huge test for this year’s Ohio State basketball team. Win or lose, it is the kind of tough game that will be good experience for the Buckeyes when the NCAA Tournament rolls around.