MADISON, Wis. - There's a buzz in the air about this weekend's matchup between No. 3 Ohio State and No. 20 Wisconsin, but Wisconsin forward Mike Bruesewtiz says he wasn't aware of it until recently.
"Yeah we went through a day of practice with scout (teams), so somebody was ‘Sullinger' so I just kind of assumed that they were (next)," Bruesewitz said after practice Thursday.
That might be just a figure of speech, but it's clear that the Badgers aren't looking at playing the Buckeyes any differently. Right now they're just another team on the schedule, even though Saturday's game is effectively a battle for first place in the Big Ten.
"It's just another game, another 40 minutes," sophomore guard Josh Gasser said. "It's a little bit of a bigger game just because of the conference race, but we don't really pay attention to that. We've got make sure we keep this place protected, and take care of business."
With a win on Saturday, the Badgers would take over first place in the Big Ten. But the Badgers aren't concentrating on that yet. They still have a game to play, and against a tough opponent at that. The Buckeyes hold their opponents to a nation-leading 0.81 points per possession, and allow just over 55 points per game, good enough for second in the Big Ten.
Fortunately for the Badgers, they're pretty familiar with the team that leads the Big Ten in opposing points per game. They see them every day in practice, after all. The Badgers allow just 49 points per game this season, meaning the Top 20 matchup on Saturday could turn into a defensive struggle quickly.
"It might be a grinder. That's how they normally are," Gasser said. "We've just got to play our game."
But what makes the Buckeyes so solid defensively?
"They have a lot of guys who are very long and very athletic," Bruesewitz said. "And when you have guys who are long and athletic who want to play defense, they can wreak havoc."
"We've got to try and make it difficult for everyone on their team," senior point guard Jordan Taylor said. "They've got a lot of talent on their team, a lot of scorers, so we've got to hassle them, dog them, do everything we can to slow them down."
So expect the Badgers to try and out-work the Buckeyes on Saturday. In a hotly contested rivalry game, sometimes it's those little things that can turn the tide.
"It might be that the team with the bloodiest jersey at the end is going to come out on top," Bruesewitz said.