Wisconsin vs. Ohio State: Players Vital to Each Team's Success in Big 10 Final

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Wisconsin vs. Ohio State: Players Vital to Each Team's Success in Big 10 Final
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After two regular season meetings weren't enough to determine who was better, the Wisconsin Badgers and Ohio State Buckeyes will meet for a third time in the Big Ten tournament championship to determine which team is superior.

Wisconsin had a tough road to the final and had to beat both Michigan in the quarterfinal and Indiana in the semifinal to get to the championship game. This is a team that is no doubt battled-tested and primed to take the tourney.

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On the flip side, Ohio St. has been able to take care of business in this tournament and squeaked out a victory in a hard-fought contest against a tough opponent in the Michigan State Spartans in the semifinal.

The Buckeyes won the first meeting with the Badgers back in January, but the Badgers returned the favor and then some in February after smoking the Buckeyes by 22 points.

Let's take a look at the key players from each team who will be vital to a Big Ten tournament crown.

 

Big Ten Tournament Bracket

Key Players

 F Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State

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Thomas is far and away the best player on Ohio St. this season and his numbers prove it. Thomas led the Buckeyes in points (19.7) and rebounds (6.2) during the regular season. In the Big Ten tourney, Thomas has been just as important; he's averaging 17.5 points, eight rebounds and one steal per contest.

The Buckeyes forward is a threat to score from anywhere on the floor. Not only is he a strong finisher down low, but Thomas can also shoot from long range and that helps Ohio St. spread opposing defenses out to create some space.

On the defensive end, Thomas is a much improved defender and his ability to rebound the basketball is what keeps the Buckeyes' head above water in that department during most games.

Wisconsin has plenty of good rebounders on its roster, so Thomas hitting the boards is a must in this game. On top of that, the Badgers are an extremely stingy defensive squad, so Ohio St. will need Thomas to be at his best on offense if it hopes to win this championship game.

 

G Aaron Craft, Ohio State

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Craft's numbers from the regular season certainly won't wow anybody, but he always seems to step his game up when the Buckeyes need it most.

The Buckeyes guard averaged 9.6 points, 4.6 assists, 3.5 rebounds and two steals per game this season. However, Craft dished out eight assists in the win over Nebraska and led the team in scoring with 20 points. He added eight assists as well as four steals in a close semifinal win over the Michigan State Spartans.

To further show just how important Craft is on offense, he had a hand in 18 of the 24 total field goals made for the Buckeyes against the Spartans (nine field goals made and nine assists).

Craft can also stake the claim as one of the best defenders in the college game today. During the Big Ten tourney, Craft has six steals in total and will be tasked with shutting down the very best offensive talent that Wisconsin has to offer.

The ability to be all over the place is exactly what makes Craft so special to his team. If the Buckeyes win this game, it will likely be because Craft had another stellar game in every facet.

 

G Ben Brust, Wisconsin

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Brust was the team's leading scorer during the 2012-13 campaign with 11.4 points per game, but he was a great all-around player with 5.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists.

Not only can Brust get to the basket, but he also has the ability to drain shots from all over the hardwood. During the Big 10 tourney, Brust is averaging 13 points and is shooting a sensational 50 percent from beyond the arc (6-for-12).

Brust is also a pesky defender and he's even upped his steal totals from the regular season. He averaged less than one steal per game all year long, but he's compiled two steals in each of his last two games.

On top of that, Brust gives great effort on the boards with his size and has virtually matched his season average in the rebounding department during this tourney.

Wisconsin's success this season comes from a total team effort, but if there is one player who can single-handedly affect a game in a special way for this team, it's Brust.

 

F-C Jared Berggren, Wisconsin

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With his great size, Berggren is the best interior presence the Badgers have on their roster. The Wisconsin big man averaged 11.3 points, seven rebounds and a team-leading two blocks per game.

Ohio St. has plenty of guys who can get to the basket and score easy buckets, so it will be up to Berggren to send those shots from whence they came in the championship game.

Berggren is also important for the Badgers on offense and his status as the team's second-leading scorer during the season proved that. Not only can he score in the paint, but Berggren can also step outside and hit shots from deep once in a while to help spread the floor.

Again, Wisconsin gets it done as a team, but Berggren has the ability to change a game by himself on the defensive side of the floor.

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