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2/9 Big Ten Preview: Wisconsin Hosts Ohio State

The Badgers and Buckeyes both look to add a quality win to their tourney resume.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

There are two Big Ten games set for today with Ohio State and Wisconsin tipping off early on CBS and Rutgers hosting Northwestern this evening on BTN.

Game of the Day

Ohio State Buckeyes at Wisconsin Badgers

  • Time/TV: 1:00 PM ET (CBS)

The Big Ten has been a hot mess of teams beating up on each other and while it’s led to a lot of not so appealing records, there are also 12 teams with a legitimate chance to make the NCAA Tournament depending on how they play down the stretch. Put Wisconsin on that list. While the Badgers are currently hovering in a lot of brackets somewhere in the 8-10 seed range, their 13-10 record means they still need to win games down the stretch. Today’s home game against Ohio State would be a perfect chance for a quality victory and with a road trip to Nebraska and home games against Purdue and Rutgers up next, could allow Wisconsin to gain some momentum.

The Buckeyes had a rough 1-6 stretch but now have won three in a row, including two wins against potential tournament teams in Indiana and Michigan. Ohio State is currently in a better situation than Wisconsin right now, but their schedule down the stretch is shaping up to be incredibly rough:

  • Rutgers
  • Purdue
  • at Iowa
  • Maryland
  • at Nebraska
  • Michigan
  • Illinois
  • at Michigan State

On one hand they’ll have plenty of home games after today. On the other hand, outside of Nebraska (who can be tricky on their home court) they’re going to be tested a lot over the next month. A win against Wisconsin would put Ohio State in better shape and help make up for a 57-61 loss to the Badgers earlier in the year.

Wisconsin has been fading the last couple weeks outside of a one point win over Michigan State. Losing to Minnesota by 18 last time out, as well as a recent blowout loss at Purdue, Wisconsin has had some issues scoring the ball the last several games. And while Ohio State’s offense has cooled during conference play, if the Badgers continue to struggle shooting the ball they’re going to have problems even if they’re at home. They shot 28.4% from the field and 24.1% from three against Minnesota while also working on replacing their second leading scorer in Kobe King. The Badgers are shooting 42% and 33% from three this season and need to find some consistency on the offensive side of the ball if they want to make a tournament run.

Of course playing in Madison has always been a huge advantage for Wisconsin and the team has a strong defense. The problem is the team has been considerably more inconsistent under head coach Greg Gard so it’s hard to get a read on what Wisconsin team we’re going to get on a given game. Is it the team that edged out Michigan State without Brad Davison or is the team that got blown out by Minnesota and Purdue? As for Ohio State, is this the team coming in on a three game winning streak or were they finally able to piece together some wins because the schedule became more favorable?

On paper Ohio State has the better team, especially when you considering the talent advantage on offense. If Kaleb Wesson can have another good day it’s honestly hard to pick against Ohio State here. That being said, it’s been tough sledding all year on the road in the Big Ten and whenever you feel like it’s time to call it a day for Wisconsin they come out of nowhere and look like a NCAA Tournament team.

It’ll be slow, ugly and close all day. Against the odds look for Wisconsin to find a way to pick up a much needed victory.

Pick: Wisconsin

The Rest

Northwestern Wildcats at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

  • Time/TV: 6:30 PM ET (BTN)

Heading into this season this would have likely been a snoozer with little reason to watch. Well, that technically remains true, but Rutgers has been a pleasant surprise and is on pace to a solid seed in the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately Northwestern has been awful this season and having them travel to New Jersey is the setting for what should be a relatively noncompetitive game.

Northwestern is on a six game losing streak, with a rough loss to Purdue last time out. That Purdue game was at home and probably should have been a win after Miller Kopp extended the lead to 58-50 with 4:34 remaining. With a decisive advantage against an ice cold Purdue team the Wildcats didn’t score the rest of the way and gave up a 11-0 run to close the game, losing on a late three pointer by Sasha Stefanovic.

Northwestern has won one game on the road this year with a win in non-conference play against Boston College. As for Rutgers...well they’ve been perfect at home. The Scarlet Knights offense hasn’t always been pretty, but they’re strong at home and have had one of the top defenses in the Big Ten this year. Facing up against a Northwestern team that lacks offensive firepower and you have what should be a rough outing for the Wildcats.

Look for the Wildcats offense to go ice cold and Rutgers to coast.

Pick: Rutgers