The top-ranked Buckeyes, having cruised to a 24-0 record and an 11-0 start to Big Ten play, now face their most difficult stretch run.
They get the 13th ranked Wisconsin Badgers in the Kohl Center. The same Kohl Center where the Badgers handed the 2006-07 Buckeyes their only conference loss. The same Kohl Center that the 08-09 Buckeyes watched a 4 game winning streak turn into the first of a 3 game losing streak. The same Kohl Center that Thad Matta has never won at. That Kohl Center. While Wisconsin's home field advantage has been put to the test by multiple teams this year, the Badgers have held firm and knocked off every single one thus far.
But now, they face the toughest team in the nation. A team that no one has found a way to beat.
Why's that? Jared Sullinger is definitely a reason. Veteran leadership is another reason; William Buford, Jon Diebler, Dallas Lauderdale and David Lighty have all pitched in and gotten the Buckeyes off to an incredible start. But Wisconsin has the players to counteract them, with one of the best point guards in the nation in Jordan Taylor and Wooden Award candidate Jon Leuer, along with solid forward Keaton Nankivil and young G Josh Gasser.
(More after the jump)
Ohio State has faced off against Wisconsin in Madison multiple times since Thad Matta came to Columbus.
In the 2004-05 matchup, the Badgers defeated the Buckeyes 72-66. They'd go on to sweep the Buckeyes.
In the 2005-06 game, the Badgers handed the Buckeyes a 78-73 loss to split the season series (after a 77-67 loss in Columbus).
In the 2006-07 game, the Badgers handed the Buckeyes a 72-69 loss. That was the only time the Buckeyes lost in conference play that year on their run to the national title game.
In 2007-08, there was no game in Madison, but the Badgers beat the Buckeyes 58-53 in Columbus.
2008-09? The Badgers knocked off the Buckeyes 55-50.
And in 2009-10, the most recent game in Madison, Thad Matta brought the Buckeyes into the Kohl Center...and the Buckeyes, badly missing Evan Turner on offense, lost 65-43. It was the worst loss the Buckeyes had suffered at the hands of the Badgers since a 30 point loss in the 2003-04 season, the year before Matta arrived in Columbus. Sans Jon Leuer, the Badgers lost the return trip in Columbus 59-51.
Sorry for the laundry list of games, but the fact remains that the Buckeyes haven't won in Madison since January 13th of 2000. Bo Ryan has never lost to Ohio State at home. But no game can be taken for granted. The Buckeyes are easily the toughest team Wisconsin has faced this year. If the Badgers are to maintain their spotless home record, and knock out the top-ranked Buckeyes in the process, they're going to need to put together their best game of the year.