With losses to the Northwestern Wildcats, Maryland Terrapins, and Illinois Fighting Illini, the Wisconsin Badgers had a brutal week, dropping to 12-8 after an 11-2 start.
Ranked at No. 14 at one point this season, the Badgers are now in danger of potentially missing the entire March Madness tournament, which is why they’re in a dire position on the road, where they’ll face the Ohio State Buckeyes on Thursday evening.
The Badgers face a tall task, as DraftKings Sportsbook currently lists them as 7.5 underdogs against the Buckeyes, with an over/under placed at 132 points. Will the Badgers cover the spread?
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See DraftKings.com/sportsbook for details.
Here’s what you need to know about the Badgers’ opponent on Monday.
The Ohio State Buckeyes come into the matchup with an 11-10 record, ranking 12th in the Big 10 due to a 3-7 conference record.
The Buckeyes have significantly struggled as of late, dropping seven of their last eight games after starting the season with a 10-3 record, encountering a similar storyline to the Badgers.
Ohio State is a prolific offensive team, averaging 76.6 points per game, while shooting 46.6% from the field and 38.2% from three.
They’re led by forward Brice Sensabaugh, who has enjoyed an extremely efficient season, averaging 17.6 points per game on 50.8% shooting and 47.4% from distance on 4.5 attempts per game.
The Buckeyes have a trio of forwards: Sensabaugh, Justice Sueing, and Zed Key that led them in scoring, while running a deep rotation, as nine players average over 10 minutes a game.
Keys to the Game
Wisconsin Defense vs Ohio State Offense: Heading into this matchup, Ohio State has clearly been the more efficient offense and the higher-scoring team of the two.
Wisconsin’s defense is, by far, their strong suit, and they’ve allowed 43.8% of opponent shots to connect, as well as 33.2% of opposing threes.
The Badgers have struggled offensively, and it’ll likely require a stellar performance defensively to keep them in the matchup, unless something begins to click.
Additionally, Wisconsin will have to account for three players that are 6’6 and taller, including two that weigh at least 235 pounds, meaning Ohio State should have a size advantage.
Last weekend, Illinois took advantage of that matchup when 6’9 Matthew Mayer was placed on 6’4 Connor Essegian.
What’s the Badgers' solution? Do they operate with more zone looks, and even if Hepburn or Klesmit match up against Justice Sueing, is there an adjustment to the size advantage?
Those are questions we will get answers to shortly.
Three-point shooting: The Badgers have been a solid shooting team this season, knocking down 36.2% of their three-pointers, with guards Chucky Hepburn and Connor Essegian hitting 47.7% and 43.3% of their threes, respectively.
However, Ohio State has been stellar when defending the three, allowing just 30.2% of opponent threes to fall, which ranks second in the Big 10.
On the other hand, Ohio State connects at the second-best clip in the Big 10 at 38.2%, while the Badgers allow 33.2% of opponent threes to fall.
The difference between the two? Wisconsin shoots 23.5 threes per game, compared to Ohio State’s 18.7, hence why the Badgers make 8.5 shots a game from distance, compared to the Buckeyes’ 7.1.
With both teams experiencing success from deep this season, the battle could ultimately come down to the better shooting team, which is a significant part of both offenses.
Rebounds: Wisconsin is the worst rebounding team in the Big 10, averaging just 31.3 per game, speaking to their issues in the frontcourt with their depth at times this season.
Meanwhile, Ohio State pulls down 38.4 rebounds per game, which ranks third in the Big Ten, while gathering 11.8 offensive boards per game, compared to Wisconsin’s 7.5.
With the size Ohio State carries on both its starting lineup and the bench, Wisconsin will need a better effort in this category, which ties into the defensive and offensive issues stated above.
Both teams need a win. And one will snap their losing streak when the Badgers and the Buckeyes face off at 6:00 PM Central Time on Fox Sports 1 later this evening.