The No. 4 seeded Wisconsin Badgers and No. 2 seeded Ohio State Buckeyes are preparing for a rubber match, this time with the stakes raised, as the Big Ten tournament title on the line.
It’s going to be a thrilling playoff battle between two bitter rivals that split the regular season matchups down the middle. The winner will not only receive B1G conference glory, but also has a great chance at improving its seeding in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
With so much to play for, you can expect a back-and-forth affair that could go either way. We’re here to help you process all the action by highlighting some players to watch, predicting the final score and much more in our 2013 Big Ten Championship preview.
Where: United Center, Chicago
When: Sunday, March 17 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Betting Line: Ohio State -2 (via ScoresandOdds.com)
Wisconsin Player to Watch: Ryan Evans
The Badgers have had no problem beating the Indiana Hoosiers over the last five years, but have to give plenty of credit to senior Ryan Evans for the team’s latest victory over the B1G rival.
In 33 minutes during the conference semifinals, the 6’6” forward scored 16 points, grabbed eight rebounds, dished four assists and blocked four shots.
He’s a jack-of-all trades player that has averaged 10.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and two assists during the 2012-13 campaign and has stepped up his game during the postseason.
If the Badgers are going to win an improbable Big Ten title, they will need this fifth-year star to come through in the clutch, using his wide array of skills to impact the contest.
Ohio State Player to Watch: Aaron Craft
Craft is primarily known for his lockdown defense, but he’s also shown flashes of incredible offensive prowess.
One of those games came in the semifinals against Michigan State, as the junior point guard exploded against the Spartans. In 39 minutes, Craft put up 20 points, dished nine assists, grabbed three boards and recorded four steals—leading the Buckeyes to a 61-58 win over the No. 3 seed.
Couple that in with his ability to shut down practically any perimeter player and be an absolute menace on the defensive end, and you have a recipe for success.
This pesky guard may not be a top-notch facilitator or consistent scorer, but when he’s feeling it, things get ugly quickly for the opposition. Should Craft get hot on Sunday, the Badgers will be hard-pressed to find a way to win.
Prediction: Ohio State 65, Wisconsin 63
The Buckeyes are getting the edge in this one by a nose.
OSU has won seven straight contests, with its last lost coming back on Feb. 17, when the Badgers capped off a 71-49 dismantling of the program.
You can expect that coach Thad Matta and the rest of this roster has not forgotten the sting of that defeat, meaning they should be more than ready for the opportunity to face Wisconsin again.
If Craft, Deshaun Thompson and the Ohio State role players are locked in, there’s no reason they should falter to coach Bo Ryan’s Badgers.
While Wisconsin has some tough players and great discipline, it does not possess the pure talent or skill to beat the Buckeyes on a neutral court if both teams are playing their best.