Tomorrow afternoon the Ohio State Buckeyes travel to the Kohl Center to play the Wisconsin Badgers. They’re hoping to come away with their first win at Wisconsin under Coach Thad Matta.
The Buckeyes have enjoyed great success under Coach Matta — but not at the Kohl Center. There, they are 0-6, and many of the losses have been of the last-minute, heart-breaking variety. Last year, Wisconsin was the first team to beat the Buckeyes, winning a bruising battle behind the heroic efforts of stud point guard Jordan Taylor. It also was a game marred by controversy. Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger said one of the Wisconsin fans who rushed the floor spit on him; the Wisconsin faithful denied the charge and called Sullinger a crybaby. During Saturday’s game, expect Wisconsin fans to razz Sullinger unmercifully — and perhaps wear a raincoat or two.
Why does Ohio State have such a tough time at the Kohl Center? Is it, as some Buckeye fans contend, that the refs are just horribly biased in favor of the Badgers when they play at home? Or, as I believe, is it because Wisconsin has tough, well-coached teams and a loud and proud group of basketball fans that just make playing the game in that place a grueling challenge for the visiting team?
In either case, this year’s rematch should be a great game. Wisconsin struggled to score points at the start of the Big Ten season, but has righted the ship and reeled off six wins in a row. Taylor is still around — it seems like he has played forever — and he is the main cog in the Wisconsin machine. But the Badgers also have a hard-nosed inside-outside player in Jared Berggren and a slew of other versatile players who can shoot the three and crash the boards. Under the tutelage of their great coach Bo Ryan, Wisconsin also plays a deliberate offensive game that means every possession counts.
At the Kohl Center, you know every game is going to be tough. The Buckeyes are hoping that they can finally come away with a win tomorrow.