December 31, 2009

Five things to watch: Ohio State

MADISON - Big Ten basketball has arrived. No more non-conference games, no more jockeying for momentum entering league play and no more projecting what will happen throughout the conference. It is here. And with Wisconsin's league opener against Ohio State upcoming, presents five things to watch.

1.) Let's get physical:

When two Big Ten foes meet on the court the ensuing physicality goes without saying. Familiarity sets in between the schools and the players just get after it on the floor. When Wisconsin plays Ohio State, it seems like that said physicality is even more intense.

Trevon Hughes, who has been around for quite some time and has had his fair share of shots at Ohio State agrees with that observation.

"Definitely," Hughes said. "Dallas Lauderdale, he is mean in the paint. I've been looking forward to that. I like to mix it up with the big guys down there. But it's definitely going to be a physical game.

"There is nothing pretty about Big Ten. We are always banging down there."

In a matchup that always seems to go to the team that hustles more and showcases more desire for the little things, one should expect nothing different in Thursday's clash.

Whether its crashing the boards with their lanky guards or pressuring UW shooters through their zone defense, Ohio State always presents a difficult and physical challenge when it steps on the floor.

"That's what it comes down to sometimes," UW junior Jon Leuer said. "At the same time, it's going to come down to who executes and who's able to knock down shots. We feel like if we stick to what we do well, I feel like we'll have a good chance."

2.) Budding Rivalry

Wisconsin and Ohio State have traded blows over the past few seasons. It seems every time they hit the court to match skills, there is always something on the line. Whether it's a game for a Big Ten title or one where the entire nation watches when ESPN's College Gameday is on campus, there is never any shortage of drama.

And with that comes a budding rivalry with the basketball Buckeyes.

"Since I've been here, we've always played them and it's been a good game," Hughes said. "There's always a lot on the line. My freshman year, we were ranked seventh when they came in here and we won. We were ranked No. 1 and we played for the title.

"I don't know, it's always been close."

3.) Chasing Diebler:

On the season, Jon Diebler is shooting nearly 50 percent from beyond the arc. He is one of the more opportunistic shooters in the league and demands attention from any defender.

With the style of offense Thad Matta runs, Diebler is able to run around and have his teammates leave him a trail of screens to get open. So, with Jason Bohannon set to defend the junior sniper, getting through those screens will be tough.

But it's something that the Badger senior has proven he can do. In last year's only regular season meeting, Bohannon only allowed Diebler to score two points. Even more impressive was the fact that Bohannon only allowed Diebler to get four shots off.

Today, a similar effort will likely be needed.

"Just try to stay right on him," Bohannon said. "Be tough getting through those screens and stay low to the ground. They're going to run all around a lot of times. You just got to be tough minded, get that shoulder low and just stay right on their hip."

4.) Ohio State's length at guard:

So far, Wisconsin has done a pretty decent job handling the rebounding edge against its opponents. Against Ohio State, it might be more difficult considering the size of its starting lineup.

The Buckeyes starting five go 6-foot-1, 6-foot-5, 6-foot-5, 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-8. While the Badgers will have players that are taller than that, the matchup problems are evident at the guard position.

Ohio State is simply one of the tougher teams to defend in the league.

"That's what presents a problem," Bohannon said. "We saw teams like that last year. Xavier, in the tournament, they had guys that were 6-foot-6 all the way across the board at guard and small forward. We've guarded it before and we're not going to change anything that we do just because of their size.

"We're going to stick to our same principles and play Wisconsin basketball."

5.) The Turner effect:

Obviously Evan Turner is one of the better players in the Big Ten, if not the country. He is a very talented swingman that is able to both shoot, score and defend. Unfortunately, Turner will not be able to participate in today's game as he recovers from a broken bone in his back after an ugly fall after a dunk attempt.

Even though the Buckeyes are missing their top player, they are still a very tough team and one that the Badgers will need to put together a solid game in order claim victory.

"They're still as dangerous as anyone," Bohannon said. "If they get hot, even David Lighty getting to the hole, they've got guys that can play. Just because Turner's down, it doesn't put them down at all. It hurts them, but they're still just as good."

Game info:

Location: Kohl Center (17,230)

TV: ESPN2 (Terry Gannon and Steve Lavin)

Radio: Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

All-Time Series: OSU leads 84-65

Last Meeting: OSU won 61-57 in the Big Ten Tournament.

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