Wisconsin Basketball Preview

OSU LogoOhio State vs. Wisconsin
The Kohl Center, Madison WI
Feb. 1st, 2014 at 12:00 PM ET (ESPN)

Well, it certainly wasn’t supposed to be like this.

If you’ve been on Twitter in the past month, you’ve seen some variation of the tweet that lumped Ohio State with Wisconsin (and some other teams) that started off the season undefeated and then collectively had lost a number of games in a row.

For Ohio State, it’s been a rough road after dismantling Nebraska on January 4th. Ohio State has lost five of its last six games, including laying a couple real stinkers against Nebraska and Penn State. Many point to the strength of the conference. This is true. The B1G, top-to-bottom, is a very talented conference. But, to quote the wise Boromir, “One does not simply lose to Nebraska AND Penn State.” Many reasons have been bandied about by fans — “this team is soft” or “lacks heart” or “doesn’t have a leader”. All of these hold water. This team’s problems are legion. And hopes that one game will “snap them out of it” have been dashed once again.

Wisconsin’s four game skid in its last five has Wisconsin fans asking the same question. “What happened?” Like Ohio State, they handily beat Northwestern only to lose to them a couple weeks later. That kind of stuff isn’t supposed to happen. This has become Bizarro B1G land, where anyone can win and Ohio State and Wisconsin find themselves in a game that could land them in a three-way tie with Northwestern for fifth place in the conference.

Fifth. Place.

It’s a legitimate concern now of whether this Buckeye team is a tournament team. Losing in the manner they have recently suggests that they are not. They need a couple of “signature” wins to bolster their currently weak resume. They can start by showing up this afternoon at the Kohl Center against the hated clean-cut Bo Ryans.

You know what you’re getting with a Ryan-coached team. Good, patient ball movement, solid shooters and a couple white bread seven-footers that no one would give a chance but end up flourishing in Bo Ryan’s style of bore-you-to-death basketball. The Badgers are led by Sam Dekker, who, according to ESPN, has no hometown. This can only mean one thing — he was born in a test-tube in Bo Ryan’s underground lair, specifically developed to play the game “the right way” and to infuriate teams with more athletic, talented players. He’ll have you tearing your hair out by the ten minute mark of the first half.

At this point, you sort of know what you’re getting with the 2013-4 version of this Ohio State team. Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott will play lock-down defense but will also play hot potato with the ball on the offensive end. LaQuinton Ross will play the majority of the game but play so unremarkable you’ll look at the box score and say, “how did he score 17?” Amir Williams will… You know what, it’s probably better I keep my opinions of what Amir Williams “does” to myself.

Lenzelle Smith and Marc Loving are the keys to this game, in my mind. If Lenzelle can find his range early, the Buckeyes will be in a position to compete. Marc Loving is the only player I see that is unafraid to take the ball to the rim that don’t make me cringe when they actually get the rack. Marc has the toolset but simply hasn’t had the time to get a handle on them against top competition. If Thad goes small against Wisconsin, Loving can get meaningful minutes this afternoon which will go a long way boosting his confidence and development.

The Kohl Center is not an easy place to play. Wisconsin, three game losing streak or not, is still a good team. I’m not sure the same could be said about these Buckeyes. But a win today will change a lot of people’s minds. And things don’t get any easier with a rematch with Iowa and the hated Wolverines on the upcoming schedule.

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