On To The CFP

It was nail-biting time for members of Buckeye Nation at about 9:30 ET last night.  A talented and gritty team from Wisconsin came out swinging in the Big Ten championship game, and when the Badgers scored an improbable touchdown to go up 21-7 at the end of the first half Ohio State fans had visions of past disasters against Iowa and Purdue dancing in their heads.  But the Buckeyes made adjustments at halftime and righted the ship, scoring 27 points and shutting Wisconsin out in the second half to win, 34-21, and take home their third straight Big Ten crown.  Although the Buckeyes ultimately won by double digits, the Badgers fought until the final minute, and held the high-powered Ohio State offense to two field goals when touchdowns would have put the game out of reach.

ohio-state-2019-big-ten-championship

As the seconds ticked down to zero, I thought that Ohio State had been truly tested by a very good football team, and that the Big Ten championship game had taught us something about this Ohio State team — they don’t wilt in the face of real adversity on a big stage, the coaches and players are adept at making adjustments and game plan modifications under pressure, and the whole team can draw upon an ample reserve of inner toughness and guttiness.  And we also learned, again, that head coach Ryan Day has a bit of riverboat gambler in him, as his fake punt call showed.  Ohio State should be grateful to Wisconsin for making the Buckeyes draw deep and for providing a very stern test that will foreshadow what lies ahead.  Last night’s game showed why fans of the Big Ten like the conference and its particular, hard-hitting brand of football — which continued up until the final play, when the Ohio State defense gave the Wisconsin quarterback a tooth-rattling hit as the clock ran out.

Although things looked dicey at halftime, by winning Ohio State undoubtedly punched its ticket for the College Football Playoffs.  The big question to be answered by the CFP Selection Committee in a few hours is whether the Buckeyes will go in at number one or number two — or even number three, and that’s what the talking heads on ESPN and Fox Sports will be debating this morning.  I may be alone in this, but I really don’t care where the Buckeyes end up.  Ohio State clearly is an excellent unbeaten team, but so are LSU and Clemson — and I think all of this talk about “resumes” and “performances against Top 25 teams” and various weird computer metrics is kind of silly when the questions about who is more deserving will be resolved with actual games in about three weeks.  I also think such argument just puffs teams up — and that might not be good in the long run.  If I were Oklahoma, the likely number four seed and a great team in its own right, all of the talk about how important it is for other teams to make it to number one so they can play the Sooners rather than somebody else would be doing nothing except providing motivation and some prime locker room bulletin board material.

The reality is that there are many very good, well-coached teams in college football — Wisconsin is one of them, by the way — and if you’re going to win the national championship you’re going to need to beat a bunch of them.  Regardless of exactly who the top four teams are or where they are ranked, they’re going to need to beat two more great teams to get to the ultimate goal.  If Ohio State ends up playing Clemson in the first playoff game — and thereby lines up with a team that is the defending national champion and has never lost to the Buckeyes and pulverized them in the playoffs a few years ago — there is no chance that Ohio State will not go into that game emotionally pumped and ready to play.  That’s what I want to see.

So the selection show and final seedings announced today will be interesting, but I’m more focused on the fact that the Buckeyes won a very challenging game, are Big Ten champions, maintain their perfect record, and are moving on with a chance to get to their goal.  The members of Buckeye Nation are grateful that we get to watch the Men of the Scarlet and Gray continue their quest to be the best.

Night Game

IMG_4986Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer is a big fan of playing football at night, under the lights.  It’s not hard to understand why.

When the sun goes down and the lights come on, the atmosphere becomes more charged.  The fans — fueled, in many instances, by ample alcohol consumption at tailgates — are seriously into the game and ready to scream.  Playing at night just seems cooler.  When you add in a flyover and fireworks launched from the top of the south scoreboard, as Ohio State did in its game against Wisconsin last night, you create an atmosphere that is designed to appeal to kids, and particularly the recruits who are trying to decide where to take their athletic talents.

Last night was a great atmosphere, and the Buckeyes won over a good Wisconsin team, 31-24.  As Buckeyes fans left the Horseshoe after 11 p.m., they could be happy with the result — but also confident that they would be seeing Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis, who created his own fireworks with 10 catches and more than 200 yards gained, in their fevered dreams.  Thank God that kid is a senior!

 

When Wisconsin Comes To Town

Tomorrow night the Wisconsin Badgers come to town for a night game at Ohio Stadium.  Technically, Ohio State has played four games already, but I think their season really starts tomorrow.

Wisconsin is a perennial power that has been the Big Ten’s representative in the Rose Bowl for the last three seasons.  Last year, the Buckeyes and the Badgers played a bruising game up in Madison that Ohio State won in overtime, 21-14.  It was a defensive struggle in which Wisconsin throttled Ohio State’s high-powered offense and held it to only 236 yards.  That game was a good representation of what Wisconsin always seems to bring to the table.  On offense, the Badgers are known for handing the ball to a gaggle a fine running backs who pound you behind a huge, corn-fed offensive line and mixing that diet of hard-nosed running in with an occasional pass.  On defense, the Badgers will pressure and hit and try to rattle their opponents, physically and mentally.

IMG_1835Wisconsin’s performance this year suggests that tomorrow’s game may be different — or maybe not.  The Badgers’ quarterback, sophomore Joel Stave, has thrown for six touchdowns, including three to fine receiver Jared Abbrederis.  But in last week’s Big Ten opener against Purdue, Wisconsin ran for a mind-boggling 388 yards on their way to pulverizing the Boilermakers, 41-10.  Ohio State’s defense has played against spread offense, quick-throw teams so far this year.  Tomorrow night, they had better be ready for  up-the-gut football with an opponent that would like nothing better than to derail the Buckeyes’ national championship aspirations.

When the Buckeyes are on offense, the big issue will be how quarterback Braxton Miller plays.  After missing two full games and most of a third with an injury — and watching back-up Kenny Guiton break a number of Ohio State offensive records on the way — Miller will be trying to reestablish himself as the premier quarterback and offensive weapon in the Big Ten.  He’ll also be looking to use every arsenal in the multi-faceted Ohio State attack.  With power runner Carlos Hyde back in the backfield after a three-game suspension, along with fellow running backs Jordan Hall and freshman Dontre Wilson and Ezekiel Elliott, Miller has plenty of options in the ground game, and Guiton has shown that Devin Smith, Corey Brown, Chris Fields, and Evan Spencer can catch and run for quick scores.

Tomorrow night’s game will answer a lot of questions about this Buckeye team.  Can their defense handle a team that plays the prototypical Big Ten power game?  How does the Buckeyes offensive speed match up against a big-time opponent that will tackle hard and do whatever it can to force turnovers.  We’ll see tomorrow night, and I’ll be there are the Horseshoe to see it.  I can’t wait!

76-0

Today the Ohio State Buckeyes trounced the Florida A&M Rattlers, 76-0.  The game was expected to be a rout — and it was.  Ohio State had more than 600 yards of offense and only had to punt once.  Florida A&M put up only 80 yards of offense and never got close to the Ohio State goal line.  Ohio State was favored to win by 57 points, and it almost exceeded that line by halftime, when the Buckeyes went into the locker room ahead 55-0.

IMG_1440People here in Columbus complained about the quality of the game.  It wasn’t a much-heralded match-up, to be sure, but it’s not entirely the fault of the OSU Athletic Department.  The Buckeyes had scheduled Vanderbilt, but the Commodores backed out.  So, Ohio State went looking for someone to fill the open date, and the Rattlers agreed to be the sacrificial lambs.  We shouldn’t feel too bad for them, though — they got a nice fee for coming to Ohio Stadium and getting pulverized.

Although games like today’s aren’t competitive, they still can be interesting.  You get to see players you’ve only heard about until now.  Today, freshman running back Ezekiel Elliott had his coming out party, rushing for 162 yards and two touchdowns, and we got to see third-string quarterback Cardale Jones run the offense.  They both look like they may be able to contribute in the future.  Other players who’ve been working hard in practice had their chances, too.  Carlos Hyde came back after a three-game suspension and got some touches, the OSU defense manhandled the Rattlers’ offense, and Braxton Miller got another week of healing as Kenny Guiton put up another OSU offensive record.

Next week, the season starts in earnest as Wisconsin comes to the Horseshoe.  After next Saturday night, we’ll have a better idea of how good this Buckeyes team really is.

Down Goes Michigan

The Michigan Wolverines have had a tough time of it lately.

Michigan was undefeated for the first two months of the season.  On January 12, they were 16-0 and ready to become the number one-ranked team in the nation.  At that point, everyone raved about the Wolverines’ offensive efficiency, their tough defense, their talented players like Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr., and their heralded freshmen like Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas.

On January 13, however, Ohio State held the high-flying Michigan offense to 53 points and beat the Wolverines in Columbus.  Since then, the other coaches in the Big Ten — which some people call the best-scouted league in the country — have tried to exploit the weaknesses first exposed by the Buckeyes.  Michigan ended the regular season 25-7 and lost 5 of its last 10 games.  Today Michigan got knocked out of the Big Ten Tournament by Wisconsin, losing 69-58. The Wolverines lost even though they held Wisconsin to only 17 points in the first half.

Michigan fans are depressed, but college basketball is full of ups and downs.  If I were a Michigan fan — and I’m not, of course — I’d be glad that the Wolverines are done with the Big Ten and can focus on the NCAA Tournament.  Michigan has a lot of talent, and if they play teams that don’t play defense like they do in the Big Ten, Michigan could make a run in the Big Dance.  I wouldn’t count them out.

 

The Big Ten At Midpoint

The Big Ten conference season has reached the halfway point.  Two things appear to be true:  the conference is filled with good teams, and the race for the regular season championship is likely to go down to the wire.

So far, the two best teams appear to be Indiana and Michigan.  Indiana leads the Big Ten with an 8-1 record after beating Michigan at Bloomington Saturday night, and Michigan is right behind at 7-2.  Also at 7-2 are Michigan State and Ohio State, and Wisconsin — which has handed Indiana its only conference loss, and at Bloomington, no less — stands one game back at 6-3.  Minnesota has had some surprising stumbles on its way to a 5-4 record, and the Illinois squad that came to the Big Ten schedule 13-1 and then beat the snot out of Ohio State at Assembly Hall has collapsed to a 2-7 conference record.

Indiana and Michigan have been impressive because they appear to be complete teams that have multiple offensive weapons, can play at all kinds of tempos, and pose significant match-up problems for most teams.  Not coincidentally, the Hoosiers and Wolverines feature three of the Big Ten’s best players in Indiana’s Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo and Michigan’s Trey Burke.  The well-rounded nature of Indiana and Michigan distinguish them from the Spartans, Buckeyes, and Badgers, all of which play very tough defense but often struggle at putting the ball into the basket.

Buckeyes fans should be thrilled with a 7-2 record, because this year’s team has some obvious holes.  Deshaun Thomas is the Big Ten’s leading scorer, but he also has been Ohio State’s only reliable offensive weapon.  The other starters — Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr., Sam Thompson, and Amir Williams — have had their ups and downs, but each game one of those players steps up and scores enough to keep opposing defenses honest.  The Buckeyes also have the consistent hallmark of a Thad Matta-coached team: they play hard-nosed defense and man up until the shot clock hits zero.  So far, the team also has done what you must do in the Big Ten — win your conference games at home and steal a few of the away games against the beatable teams.

The road gets tougher for Ohio State, starting immediately.  The Buckeyes play at Michigan tomorrow night, where the Wolverines will be looking to avenge their loss at OSU a few weeks ago.  Then, on Sunday, the Buckeyes welcome Indiana to Value City Arena.  By this time next week, we’ll have a better idea of whether this Buckeye team should be put in the contender, or pretender, category.

Will The Sophomores Step Up?

Tonight the Ohio State University men’s basketball team plays its first Big Ten contest of the season.  The Buckeyes take on Nebraska at the Schott.

It will be the start of what promises to be a very challenging Big Ten season.  Michigan is undefeated and ranked second in the land, preseason favorite Indiana has lost only once and is ranked fifth, and Minnesota and Illinois each have lost only once and are ranked ninth and eleventh, respectively — and that list doesn’t even include perennial contenders Michigan State and Wisconsin.  The consensus view of analysts is that the Big Ten is the toughest conference in the country.

What about the Buckeyes?  They are 10-2, but they’ve lost the only two games they’ve played against powerhouse teams, falling to Duke away and Kansas at home.  In both cases, a big problem was shooting the ball.  Ohio State plays solid defense but struggles to knock down shots in their half court offense.  Deshaun Thomas can be counted on to put points on the board, but the team lacks a consistent number two scorer.  Point guard Aaron Craft is a defensive whiz, but he struggles with his outside shot and the lack of Jared Sullinger in the middle has affected his opportunities to drive to the basket.  Guard Lenzelle Smith, Jr. is a hustler but his offensive production is streaky.  Center Evan Ravenel — the only senior on the team — has decent offensive skills but is undersized.

That leaves Buckeye fans looking to members of Ohio State’s heralded sophomore class:  guard Shannon Scott, forwards LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson, and center Amir Williams.  All have shown improvement over their performance last year.  Scott seems to be playing with much more confidence, particularly on the offensive end, Thompson has developed a jump shot to go with his awe-inspiring dunks, and Ross has showed signs of having the all-around offensive game that makes Buckeye Nation wonder whether he can become another Deshaun Thomas.  Williams’ progress has been slower.  He doesn’t have a dependable “big man” offensive move, yet, but he is becoming a disruptive force on the defensive end with his shot-blocking abilities.

If Ohio State is going to contend for the Big Ten championship this year — and that’s a big if, with the depth of talent in the conference this year — it will be because these members of the sophomore class step up, contribute on the offensive end, and play tough on the road.  Their first test is tonight.

Big Ten Chumps

Tonight the Nebraska Cornhuskers play the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten Championship game.  It’s a bit of a nightmare scenario for the conference.

https://i0.wp.com/www.waitingfornextyear.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/bo.jpgNebraska is not a bad team.  They’re 10-2 and have only lost one game in the conference — although it was a crushing loss, a 63-38 spanking at the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes.  Wisconsin, on the other hand, is a different story.  The Badgers are 7-5 overall, and only 4-4 in the conference.  Wisconsin lost three of its last four games, all in overtime.

Wisconsin is not a bad team, either — but what does it tell you when a .500 team in the conference makes it to the championship game and has the chance to play in the Rose Bowl?  The reason, of course, is that undefeated Ohio State, easily the best team in the Big Ten, isn’t eligible to play due to NCAA sanctions.

https://i2.wp.com/media.scout.com/Media/Image/60/608537.jpgNot surprisingly, there’s not a lot of interest in the game.  Many tickets are for sale at a steep discount from face value, and organizers are expecting a number of empty seats.  I’m confident that the Rose Bowl organizers, too, are holding their breath and hoping that Nebraska wins, so the Granddaddy of all bowl games doesn’t feature a team that barely has a winning record.

I’m sure the Badgers will play their hardest and will be proud to represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl if they win.  I’d feel that way if I were a Badger, too, but for the rest of us Big Ten fans this game is an embarrassment.  It’s a pathetic conclusion to a year that — thanks to the sanctions imposed on Ohio State and Penn State, weak teams, a less-than-stellar out of conference record, and uninspired play by teams like Michigan State that were expected to be powerhouses — has been an embarrassment for the storied Big Ten conference.

The Buckeyes And The Badgers

At 3:30 this afternoon, the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes play the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin.  The venue will be rocking, as it always seems to be when Ohio State plays Wisconsin.

These teams have a very good rivalry going, in both football and basketball.  In football, the teams have taken turns knocking each other off in recent years, often in dramatic fashion.  Last year, Ohio State’s nail-biting win over the highly ranked Badgers was the lone bright spot in an otherwise dismal season, and the year before Wisconsin handed Ohio State its only loss.  In basketball, Bo Ryan and Thad Matta have established a tremendous rivalry; each program has had excellent teams in recent years and the season series has been split in each of the last three seasons.  Next to traditional rival Michigan, Wisconsin is Ohio State’s top adversary in the Big Ten and, I think, the team Buckeye Nation most wants to beat in the big-money sports.

Today’s game should be a classic.  Wisconsin is a tough team that has lost three close games.  It features the perennial punishing ground game that you expect from a Wisconsin football team; top running back Montee Ball has already rushed for more than 1200 yards and is mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate.  The Badgers strap it up and run right at you, which means the Ohio State defensive line will need to come to play.  The Wisconsin defense, on the other hand, has been terrific in keeping opponents off the scoreboard and is one of the best defenses in the country in that category.  Add in the din that always is found in Camp Randall Stadium, and you have all the makings of a barnburner.

To win this game, the Buckeyes need to get off to a good start — something they haven’t been able to do in many games this year.  On offense, the Buckeyes will need to mix it up and Braxton Miller will need to be as accurate with his arm as he has been elusive with his feet.  The Ohio State defense must stop Ball and the Badgers’ ground game.  It would be nice for Ohio State to get a big lead and force Wisconsin to throw, but that’s probably wishful thinking.  This will probably be one of those back-and-forth, hard-hitting games where turnovers tell the tale — and one that will add to the luster of this fine Big Ten rivalry.

Concluding The Kohl Center Curse (Finally!)

The Ohio State Buckeyes have finally — finally! — won a game at Wisconsin’s Kohl Center.  They beat the Badgers today today, 58-52, in as tough and hard-fought a game as you would ever expect to see.

Jared Sullinger was a beast on the inside; he scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Wisconsin really had no answer for him.  Deshaun Thomas showed why he is one of the best forwards in the Big Ten, grabbing many rebounds and making some clutch buckets.  Aaron Craft played a standout defensive game against Badgers stud point guard Jordan Taylor, and made some key free throws to help ice the game, Lenzelle Smith, Jr., played a fine floor game, and William Buford — poor, much maligned William Buford, who just could not get a shot to go down — made a three-point dagger in crunch time.

This is the kind of game you expect to see in a balanced conference like the Big Ten, where road wins are like pearls of the highest price.  Wisconsin played its normal deliberate game and its in-your-face defense, but today, the Buckeyes were just a little bit better. Winning at the Kohl Center is a huge step forward for Ohio State, because winning in an intimidating atmosphere says a lot about your team’s mental toughness — and there are a lot of challenging games yet to be played.

Kicking Some Badger Butt

It was very satisfying, indeed, to watch Ohio State crush Wisconsin today, 93-65.  The blow-out win was a fitting send-off to David Lighty, Jon Diebler, and Dallas Lauderdale, who will go down as one of the best — and certainly most beloved — senior classes in Ohio State hoops history.  It also was nice to see the Buckeyes “deal with it,” to use Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan’s deathless phrase.

Ohio State coach Thad Matta has molded together a really wonderful team.  It is staggering that the Buckeyes scored 93 points on the Badgers, who are one of the best defensive teams in the country.  Before today, Wisconsin had allowed only one team to score even 70 points.  But today, the Buckeyes beat the Badgers inside and beat the Badgers outside.  Jon Diebler led Ohio State in raining threes, as the Buckeyes shot a stunning 14 out of 15 from behind the arc.  Jared Sullinger, Dallas Lauderdale, and David Lighty also put up a lot of points in the paint, and the Buckeyes out-rebounded the Badgers as well.  Finally, Aaron Craft played a virtually flawless offensive floor game, dishing out 6 assists while having zero turnovers.  If Ohio State executes like that on the offensive end in the rest of its games this season, it will be a very hard team for anyone to beat.

On the defensive end, the Buckeyes shut down Jordan Taylor, who had torched the Buckeyes in Madison, and also took the Badgers’ excellent forward, Jon Leuer, out of his game.  The Buckeyes can play a suffocating man-to-man, as they did today, and their offensive efficiency also puts pressure on the opposing team’s offense.  When Ohio State is scoring on virtually every trip down the court, and often with a three, the temptation for the other team to come down and try to score quickly is difficult to resist — and often quick shots are bad shots.

The Buckeyes now need to put this very satisfying win behind them.  They move on to the Big Ten Tournament as the number one seed.  That tournament doesn’t mean much, except as a vehicle to cement an overall no. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.  The Buckeyes need to avoid injury, stay sharp, and let some of their back-ups play — and then they need to get ready for The Big Dance.

Looking To “Deal With It”

The Ohio State Buckeyes were undefeated until they traveled to Madison, Wisconsin to play the Badgers.  The Buckeyes built a 15-point lead early in the second half, but then Jordan Taylor caught fire.  He was unconscious for the rest of the game and, with some help from his teammates, he led Wisconsin to victory.

Losing is no big deal in college basketball.  There hasn’t been a undefeated team in decades, and there is no shame in losing at Wisconsin — where the Badgers lose only once in a blue moon.  But what made the loss memorable was that Jared Sullinger mentioned that he was spit upon as Wisconsin fans stormed the court and that, when Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan was asked about the incident a few days later, his message was that Wisconsin had won the game and the Buckeyes just needed to “deal with it.”  Ryan’s flippant comment has been seized upon by Buckeyes’ fans as a bit of a battle cry.

Ohio State hopes to “deal with it” tomorrow, when they play the Badgers at Value City Arena in the last regular-season game of the year.  It should be a great atmosphere.  Red “Deal With It” towels will be handed out to all of the students in the Nut House.  And there will be more on the line than just working to get some payback against Wisconsin.  It will be Senior Day, with Ohio State stalwarts David Lighty, Jon Diebler, and Dallas Lauderdale playing their final home games.  And if the Buckeyes win, they will win the Big Ten regular season title outright.

The Badgers are on a winning streak against Ohio State.  In addition to their win over the no. 1 Buckeyes early this basketball season, they also beat the no. 1 Buckeyes in football.  Now the basketball Buckeyes are no. 1, again.  Let’s hope they turn the tables on the Badgers tomorrow.

Roll On, Big O-SU

The Ohio State Buckeyes spanked Indiana today, while Purdue crushed Michigan State.  Their victories set up what should be an interesting final week of the Big Ten regular season.

The Buckeyes close at Penn State, on Tuesday night, and then finish at home against Wisconsin on Sunday.  Purdue, in the meantime, hosts Illinois on Tuesday and then ends the season at Iowa on Saturday.  Although there will be a Big Ten Tournament the following weekend, and the winner of that tournament will be deemed the Big Ten championship for purposes of the automatic NCAA Tournament bid, every true Big Ten fan knows that the regular season title is the more important one.  There is a lot of pride involved in surviving the rugged life on the road in the Big Ten and winning enough away games to claim the regular season title.

This year, Ohio State, Purdue, and Wisconsin clearly are the class of the conference.  Ohio State fans hoped that Purdue might stumble in East Lansing, but instead the Boilermakers drubbed the struggling Spartans.  That win means the Buckeyes will have to win out to claim the regular season title, and Ohio State held up its end of the bargain today by clubbing the Hoosiers at Value City Arena.  Indiana is a good example of a once-storied program that has fallen on hard times.  Although the Hoosiers may bounce back next year, when they have a good recruiting class coming in, right now they just don’t belong, talent-wise, on the same floor as Ohio State, Purdue, or Wisconsin.  They are cannon fodder, like the Washington Generals or the anonymous masked wrestler who gets trounced by Hulk Hogan in the run-up to Wrestlemania.

The game at Happy Valley Tuesday night will be a huge one for both teams.  The Nittany Lions need a win to build their resume for an at-large NCAA bid, and the Buckeyes need the win to stay ahead of Purdue in the race for the regular season Big Ten crown.

Looking To Start A New Streak

The Wisconsin Badgers knocked off Ohio State in Madison yesterday, ending the Buckeyes’ perfect season. To the chagrin of Buckeye Nation, Wisconsin joins the ranks of the handful of teams that have, in the same academic year, beaten the same school when it was ranked number one in football and basketball.

The game was every bit as exciting as advertised, with great swings and crucial plays.  Wisconsin went ahead in the early minutes, but Ohio State’s defense clamped down.  The Buckeyes slowly ground their way back and finally ended the first half with their first lead of the game.  The second half was played at a faster pace and was a game of runs.  Ohio State put on a clinic in the first few minutes and went ahead by 15, but then it was Wisconsin’s turn.  The Badgers — led by stud point guard Jordan Taylor — seemed to make every shot they put up and erased the Buckeyes’ lead and pulled ahead in a barrage of three-pointers.  To their credit, the Buckeyes refused to give up, and the game came down to whether a red-haired Badger could make a three-pointer to put the Buckeyes away.  He did, and Wisconsin won.

I give credit to the Badgers because they didn’t quit.  I give credit to the Buckeyes for that same reason.  There will be games where your opponent seems to make every shot while your efforts rim out.  The important thing is to keep fighting, and the Buckeyes did so until the end.  They also made their free throws in a hostile environment, which is encouraging.  (Speaking of hostile environments, Wisconsin would be well-served by addressing the crass chants of its students, which I think give a fine University a bit of a black eye.)

Good teams will use this kind of loss as a building block and a motivator.  I hope that is what the Buckeyes will do.  With their 24-game winning streak ended, they will look to start a new streak on Tuesday against Michigan State.

The Badgers And The Buckeyes

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.