On Sunday, the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes ’ men’s basketball team dropped their second game of the season, this one coming to the No. 16 West Virginia Mountaineers, 67-59. But, on Friday night, they will have the chance to rebound as they host the Wisconsin Badgers at 7 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.
The game will kick off the bulk of the Big Ten slate for both teams, so we chatted with Matt Belz from our Wisconsin sister site Bucky’s 5th Quarter about what Ohio State should expect from the 2019-20 version of the Badgers.
LGHL: It’s been a bit of an up-and-down season for the Badgers thus far, so for Buckeye fans who are just now starting to pay attention to the rest of the Big Ten basketball field, how would you sum up the first two months of the season for Wisconsin? What have been their strengths and weaknesses?
Matt Belz: Wisconsin has struggled on the road this year outside of a nice showing recently against Tennessee. The Badgers have really struggled with shooting the ball, particularly from the outside, in their five losses away from the Kohl Center. A streaky team, Wisconsin can get too reliant on the three-point shot. On the season the Badgers have shot 88 more deep balls than their opponents.
In terms of strengths the defense has been pretty strong for most of the season. The Badgers have allowed only 60.5 points per game which is solid. Even in their losses only one team has scored over 70 points.
LGHL: The Badgers appear to be a grind-it-out type of team this year, with both their scoring offense and scoring defense being amongst the lowest in the conference. Is this just the traditional Wisconsin scheme, or is this even more pronounced because of the players on the team this year?
Matt Belz: I think it is fairly traditionally in terms of the style of play and pacing, but this years iteration of Wisconsin basketball does not have a big time scorer to turn to in times of need. Over the past decade the Badgers have had a guy that they can turn to whether it is Frank Kaminsky or Ethan Happ. This year’s team just doesn’t have that which has led to some significant scoring droughts.
LGHL: Wisconsin essentially has four players averaging in double-figures, led by 6-foot-11 Nate Reuvers at 14.7 ppg and 6-foot-8 Aleem Ford at 9.9. With power forward Kyle Young out for the Buckeyes, how do you expect Greg Gard to attempt to take advantage of what should be a size and experience advantage down low?
Matt Belz: I would expect to see Reuvers utilized in the post quite a bit in hopes of getting Kaleb Wesson in foul trouble. Aleem Ford is more of a stretch four so he does most of his damage outside of the paint, but if the Badgers can work inside-out with Reuvers it could go a long way in helping them do better on offense. I spoke about the Badgers affinity to shoot from deep, that becomes a lot easier to do if Reuvers can get things going inside.
LGHL: After the first semester officially ended, for Ohio State forward Micah Potter was finally allowed to play for Wisconsin, following the NCAA’s idiotic ruling that held up his transfer eligibility. He played fairly well against Milwaukee and Rider. What are the expectations around the program for him in the second half of the season?
Matt Belz: His plus-minus statistics haven’t been great in limited time, but he is a physical presence that this team lacks. Neither Reuvers or Ford are exceptionally adept at rebounding, and are not exceptionally physical. Potter is a broader post player that has excited fans. Most knowledgeable Badger fans know he will not be the second coming of John Leuer or anything, but he is a solid player that can bang inside and also stretch the floor from the three-point line at times.
LGHL: How do you think that this game plays out, and what do you think the final score is?
Matt Belz: I think Wisconsin is definitely playing better basketball as of late, but Ohio State is playing really well. I think the wide-array of experienced and young talent on Ohio State’s team is too much though on the road. I think OSU will win 68-61.
The No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes will host the Wisconsin Badgers on Friday, Jan. 3 at 7 p.m. ET from the Schottenstein Center in a game to be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.