Selection Sunday's championship final pits two teams -- and players -- looking for redemption and momentum headed into the NCAA tournament.
Who are these guys?
Is this the same Ohio State team that Wisconsin destroyed by 22 points back in mid-February? And are these Badgers actually doppelgangers of the fellows that shot 17-of-72 on 3-pointers and generally looked awful in their final three regular season games?
Wisconsin (23-10, 12-6 Big Ten) arrived here by having total control of the Indiana Hoosiers. Complete ownership over the past 12 straight meetings. When you consider that Indiana forced UW into 15 turnovers and the Badgers still won handily, it is clear that the Ohio State has a different animal on its hands this afternoon. The offense-defense balance, spearheaded by Ryan Evans, is back -- and it gave previous top 10 opponents Michigan and Indiana fits.
It's been a remarkable turnaround by Wisconsin in terms of energy and defensive feistiness. The Badgers are always very solid, but never quite this good at knocking balls loose for steals and squeezing the 50/50 rebounds.
But some believe No. 10 Ohio State (25-7, 13-5) has the best defense in the country. Coupled with the resurgence of point guard Aaron Craft, the Buckeyes have rattled off seven wins in a row since their 71-49 loss at the Kohl Center.
In Craft, the Badgers face the one player in college basketball that might embody a feisty spirit more than anyone. When you couple him with Shannon Scott in the backcourt, guys like Traevon Jackson will find a little less freedom to operate. And to make matters worse, Craft's new-found aggressiveness has generated four games of 14 or more points in his last six outings.
As pointed out earlier, Craft and Evans embody the turnarounds of their respective teams. For seniors Evans, Jared Berggren (who is likely to break the single-season blocked shots record for UW today), and Mike Bruesewitz, the title game is the final opportunity to bring home a Big Ten title to Madison during their career. Wisconsin has not won a title of any kind in the conference since 2008, the last time it won the tournament.
Wisconsin is pretty much locked into a 4-seed after a strong tournament showing in Chicago, but is not settling. Ohio State is looking to solidify a projected 2-seed in bracketology.
Projected Starting Lineups
|Jared Berggren, Sr.||C||Amir Williams, So.|
|Mike Bruesewitz, Sr.||F||Deshaun Thomas, Jr.|
|Ryan Evans, Sr.||F||Sam Thompson, So.|
|Ben Brust, Jr.||G||Lenzelle Smith, Jr., Jr.|
|Traevon Jackson, So.||G||Aaron Craft, Jr.|
KenPom win probability: 48% (59-58 L) 61 possessions
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