Ohio State and Wisconsin are in similar positions currently. Both teams saw a large number of talented players graduate or enter the draft early. Both teams are in a position in which they need to rely on younger players. Both teams are in the midst of disappointing seasons, already with nine losses a piece.
Despite the poor result, Ohio State is coming off of a strong performance against Maryland at home. In their recent matchup, the Buckeyes were able to hang tough with the elite Terrapins throughout most of the game. In fact, Ohio State outscored Maryland in the second half. However, the experience and talent asymmetries proved too drastic to overcome and the Buckeyes fell 66-61.
Wisconsin was mired squarely in the middle of a three game losing streak before emerging from the cellar and tallying four straight wins. Despite the disappointing nature of the season, the Badgers are moving in the right direction as they recently knocked off Michigan State and Indiana in the middle of their winning streak. Wisconsin will welcome the Buckeyes to the Kohl Center filled to the brim with confidence. It will be up to Ohio State to stop the streaking Badgers.
The Buckeyes have continued to struggle with turnovers and consistency on the offensive end. Ohio State needs consistent offensive performances from players like Marc Loving, Keita Bates-Diop, and JaQuan Lyle. A win tonight would help to instill confidence into the team as Thad continues to tinker with the starting lineup
Numbers to know
The Buckeyes are currently ranked 15th in the country in blocks per game. Ohio State has been able to use its length and athleticism in the front court ass season to block and misdirect shots. While the Buckeyes have been averaging 5.7 blocks per game, the Badgers notch about 3 blocks per game. In a closely matched battle, smaller statistics could make the difference.
The Buckeyes have only beaten one team with a winning record out of their matchups in Big Ten play. That one team with a winning record: Northwestern. That game was almost a month ago. For Ohio State to compete in the Big Ten the rest of the year, they will need to compete with and defeat the better teams in the conference.
Ohio State is currently shooting a despicable 65% from the free throw line. As mentioned above, these two teams are fairly evenly matched. Despite the Badgers being at home and on a winning streak, this game has the potential to come down to the wire in a close game. Close games are often determined by free throw shooting. If that is the case, the Buckeyes either need to improve quickly or find themselves in trouble.
Cast of characters
Keita Bates-Diop may be the most talented player on the roster for the Buckeyes. He has length, a soft touch at the rim, and the ability to score from the perimeter and from three. However, in concert with many other Buckeyes, Bates-Diop struggles with consistency. If Ohio State is going to win this road game against the Badgers, Bates-Diop will need to assert himself early and become a consistent contributor offensively.
JaQuan Lyle has had his ups and downs this season. He has notched a triple double in one game, but looked like he can't maintain an active dribble in other games. Thad Matta's recent lineup changes have resulted in Lyle starting off games on the bench and frankly he hasn't responded well. The Buckeyes need Lyle to regain his confidence moving forward and will need his offensive skill set to shine if they are going to pull out a victory in Madison.
Nigel Hayes is the unquestioned leader of this Badgers squad. He is currently averaging 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. Hayes can truly stuff the stat sheet and does most of his damage from the low block and in the paint. Hayes will most likely find himself being guarded by Jae'Sean Tate, which bodes will for the Buckeyes as Tate is one of their better defenders. Ohio State cannot let Hayes have his way down low in the paint for them to have a chance at stealing the road win.
Bronson Koenig is the quintessential second fiddle for Nigel Hayes for the Buckeyes. He is second in points, minutes, and assists per game. Koenig typically plays floor general for Wisconsin as he brings the ball up and gets the badgers into their sets. He can also be a distinct threat from behind the arc as he is shooting a formidable 38% from deep. Although the Badgers don't score a ton of points, it will be important for Ohio State to limit one of their more consistent scorers in Koenig.
How to watch
Game time: 7 p.m. ET
Radio: 97.1 The Fan