Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Sunday best: Badgers, Bucks brawl for Big Ten

[media-credit name=’JEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photo’ align=’alignright’ width=’336′]MBB-vs-OSU-092-JS[/media-credit]One of the yearly goals of the No. 1 Wisconsin men's basketball team is to win the Big Ten Championship. On Sunday, the team will get its chance.

"I'm thinking about how to play and how to finish out the Big Ten," UW head coach Bo Ryan said. "That's our goal every year to try and compete for this thing. That's what we are trying to do."

The game is being billed as No. 1 meets No. 1, as Wisconsin and Ohio State, the top-ranked teams in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls, respectively, meet in Columbus. However, of much bigger importance to UW is that if the team is to achieve its goal of winning the conference championship, the Badgers will need a win over the Buckeyes. Otherwise, Ohio State will clinch the Big Ten title outright.


"They are trying to finish out like we are, with a Big Ten championship," sophomore forward Joe Krabbenhoft said. "That's all you can ask for as a competitor, to play the best, to play the reigning champ. The trophy is in Ohio State right now. … We know the championship goes through Ohio State. We got to go in there and take it."

Senior forwards Jason Chappell and Alando Tucker are the only Badgers remaining on the roster from UW's last regular season league title in 2003. Both are looking to recapture the feeling and bookend their careers nicely.

"We haven't won it since my freshman year. I remember the feeling when we won that," Chappell said. "It's been so long, it seems like [forever] since it happened. It would be something special to go out like that, especially it being my senior year. To go out on a high note like that would be awesome."

At 26-3 and 12-2 in the Big Ten, the Badgers are looking up in the league standings for the first time this season after their 64-55 setback at Michigan State Tuesday. Ohio State (25-3, 13-1 Big Ten) needs only a victory at Value City Arena — where the team is 17-0 on the year — to wrap up a second consecutive conference crown.

"It's a big game for us, especially coming off how we played Tuesday night," junior forward Brian Butch said. "We know what's at stake. Any basketball player knows what's at stake."

While the Wisconsin players and coaches are often quick to downplay the importance of any one game, it's difficult to minimize the importance of maybe the most-hyped regular season contest in the school's history.

"It's hard to sleep at night already," Krabbenhoft said. "Thinking about this Ohio State game, what's at stake — a Big Ten championship. This is what I've dreamed about my whole life."

Even Ohio State head coach Thad Matta gushed at how monumental the matchup that looms on Sunday is.

"Growing up a Big Ten fan as I did, it speaks volumes about the Big Ten," Matta said. "Having the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country is what I signed up for here."

Ohio State's lone conference loss came to Wisconsin on Jan. 9 at the Kohl Center when the Badgers held on for a 72-69 victory. Senior Kammron Taylor, who is coming off his worst outing of the year — 0-for-6 shooting, two points versus the Spartans — had a season-high 25 points that night for UW. Tucker chipped in 17. The Buckeyes' prized center Greg Oden had a rough outing. He was limited to just 10 points and seven rebounds, while his fellow rookie and high school running-mate Mike Conley Jr. only had seven points — although he dished out five assists.

If Wisconsin hopes to repeat its success against Ohio State it will once again need to keep the Buckeye freshmen under control.

Butch, Chappell and Marcus Landry all drew assignments against the OSU center, who leads the Big Ten in rebounding (9.7 RPG) and is seventh in points-per-game, averaging 15.5 a contest.

"They've definitely gotten Oden more involved in the offense," Butch said of the National Freshman of the Year candidate. "They are able to make him a force down there. They are looking to him down there a little bit more."

However, Oden's impact might be felt even more on the defensive end. Dick Vitale has been noted for several times exclaiming that Oden is worth 20 points a game on the defensive end. While that might be a stretch, he is the Big Ten's — and quite possibly the nation's — premier shot blocker, averaging 3.7 per game.

Conley Jr., who for his entire prep and pro career has been somewhat overshadowed by Oden, leads the conference in assists (6.54 APG) and steals (2.36 SPG). He also has been efficient offensively, shooting 53 percent from the field and holding the league's best assist-to-turnover ratio at plus-3.10.

"He's real good; he can do a lot of things," Ryan praised. "He can attack, he can pull up. Defensively, he can get after people; he can take a charge more than some point guards. He's not afraid to stick his nose in it. He's a competitor, he's tough."

While the Buckeye's young talent is often overwhelming for opponents, the Badgers will lean on their experience to pull them through.

"Alando's been around, Kam's been around," Krabbenhoft said. "Alando [and Chappell] have won a Big Ten championship. … The crowd's going to be a little more juiced and the media's going to be around a little bit more, but our seniors are going to lead us through this."

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