The Wisconsin Badgers narrowly defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers despite some late-game mishaps, securing a 71-67 victory to keep their postseason hopes alive as they enter the Big 10 tournament as the No. 12 seed.
After some poor luck dropped their seeding on the final day of the regular season, the Badgers will play the first game of the conference tournament against No. 13 Ohio State, looking to string together some late-season success in hopes of making March Madness.
DraftKings Sportsbook currently lists the Badgers as two-point underdogs against the Buckeyes, with an over/under placed at 130.5 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 Wednesday.
The Ohio State Buckeyes come into the matchup with a 13-18 record, ranking second-to-last in the Big 10 with a 5-15 conference record.
The Buckeyes are led by freshman forward Brice Sensabaugh, who’s averaged 16.5 points per game on 48.1% from the field and 41.5% from distance.
Sensabaugh is complemented by veterans Justice Sueing, Zed Key, and fellow freshman Bruce Thornton, who all average over 10 points per game for the Buckeyes, with Key being proficient inside the paint and Thornton displaying the ability to shoot from deep.
Ohio State has showcased the ability to score well this season, averaging 73 points per game, although they only scored 60 points in the lone matchup between the two teams in the regular season.
Keys to the Game
Brice Sensabaugh: Sensabaugh is an obvious key for the game, but for a different reason than expected.
The forward was very limited during the two teams’ last matchup, as he fouled out in just 16 minutes, which minimized his impact on a 13-point, 71% shooting night up to then.
The remainder of the team shot just 38.7% without their star forward, which ultimately led Wisconsin to the win, despite an off game for Tyler Wahl.
The Badgers need to continue showcasing the aggressiveness seen against Minnesota, which should lead to ample foul opportunities and the ability to score inside and outside of the perimeter.
Having Sensabaugh available for the entirety of the game is a completely different challenge. Wisconsin needs to attack and neutralize the Ohio State forward to the best of its abilities.
Point guard battle: When it mattered most, guard Chucky Hepburn showed out, attacking the paint significantly in the second half against Minnesota before nailing the game-winner three-pointer.
Hepburn hasn’t played as well this season, shooting just 38% from the field, while making questionable decisions down the stretch, but he lifted the Badgers in their win over the weekend and is integral to Wisconsin’s success.
On the other hand, Ohio State has Bruce Thornton, whose 45% from the field and 38% from three averages indicate his multi-level scoring ability.
The guard shot just 2/8 against Wisconsin the first time around, so the Badgers will need to play similar defense, expectedly from Max Klesmit, on the freshman guard.
Physicality: Despite a five-point victory in the first matchup, the Badgers were out-physicaled by the Buckeyes, who secured 12 offensive rebounds, even with Sensabaugh playing just 16 minutes.
They out-rebounded Wisconsin 45-26, although the turnover battle evened the game out.
The Badgers had a similar story against Minnesota, who out-physicaled them in their first matchup, but rebounded well over the weekend by focusing on the interior for scoring, which paid off well.
Wisconsin needs a similar approach on Wednesday, taking the physicality to Ohio State, which should earn them more chances at the free throw line and on the glass.