Wisconsin-Ohio State: Roles Reversed for Saturday's Battle
For the second time in less than a month, the Wisconsin men's basketball team will take on their counterparts at Ohio State when the two teams clash Saturday night.
However, this time they'll meet in Columbus and the Badgers will be without arguably their best player, while the Buckeyes will have regained theirs.
Coming off a nice 60-50 road win over Northwestern without the services of forward Jon Leuer, who was averaging over 15 points and six rebounds a game, Wisconsin is proving once again why no one should ever doubt a Badger team coached by Bo Ryan. No. 13 in the AP poll, Wisconsin just notched a win over then No. 4 Purdue and barely lost at Michigan State last week.
However, if Wisconsin wants to compete for a Big Ten title, they need to be at full strength. It's not like they lost one of their reserve players who contributes sparingly. They lost their starting power forward, who has been one of the keys to their early success.
Leuer, along with Trevon Hughes, has led this team to a 13-3 record in a season where many people thought that record would be impossible at this point in the season.
However, Wisconsin did show that it can manage without Leuer.
With Jason Bohannon finally stepping up the past two games, the Badgers managed to pull out wins despite the lack of an inside scoring presence.
However, as has been the case for the past few years, Wisconsin lives and dies by the three-pointer. When they're hot, as Hughes was in the second half against Northwestern, the Badgers are hard to beat. But when they're cold, their offense is one of the most frustrating things a basketball fan could ever witness.
And with Leuer out, expect the Badgers to rain threes like never before.
For Ohio State, they get back the services of their star forward Evan Turner, who led the Bucks to a come-from-behind win in Purdue Tuesday night.
After missing about a month of time with broken vertebrae, Turner came back with a vengeance in his second game with full playing time, scoring 32 points against the Boilermakers to fuel the upset.
Despite the loss of Turner, Ohio State was able to stay in the mix for the Big Ten title and at 2-3 in the conference, are in need of wins.
That's why this game against Wisconsin is so important for them. Although a win wouldn't propel them into serious title contention yet, it would be a huge resume-booster for a team that, at 12-5, needs to keep winning if they want to lock up a bid to the Big Dance.
For Wisconsin, it's a chance to prove that they can beat an above-average Big Ten team on the road. Not to say that Northwestern and Penn State aren't good, but playing against an Evan Turner-led Buckeye squad in front of 19,000 at the Value City Arena is a little different.
Now, a Badger loss on Saturday won't be that devastating for the team because they know they are missing a key ingredient. Leuer cannot be replaced and Wisconsin can only hope to weather the storm that his broken wrist incurred.
That said, a win would be huge for a team that, despite winning Wednesday, has to be a little rattled after losing their star. It would prove they are capable of winning on the road and of winning without Jon Leuer.
The Buckeyes are still very much in the running despite losing Turner for a month. Who's to say the Badgers can't do the same?
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