WISCONSIN BADGERS (23-10)
vs. OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (25-7)
Big Ten Conference Tournament - Championship
United Center – Chicago, IL
Tip-off: Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Line: Ohio State -1.5, Total: 118
Two of the best defensive teams in the country will play for the Big Ten Championship on Sunday when No. 10 Ohio State battles No. 22 Wisconsin.
The Badgers defense has been outstanding in this tournament so far, holding both No. 6 Michigan (75.2 PPG) and No. 2 Indiana (80.8 PPG) to less than 60 points. Meanwhile, Wisconsin's erratic offense has been solid in the two victories with 68.0 PPG on 44.3% FG and 15-of-40 threes (38%). The Buckeyes have also clamped down on teams all season, especially lately where they have limited opponents to a paltry 54.1 PPG during their current seven-game SU win streak (6-1 ATS). This stellar defense has been vital, as the offense has reached 70 points just once in the past six games. These schools are meeting for the third time this season, splitting the first two contests with each team winning in its home building. OSU took the first meeting on Jan. 29 by a 58-49 score, but Wisconsin returned the favor with a 71-49 blowout in Madison. Since 2006, these schools have split 16 meetings evenly (8-8 SU) with Ohio State holding a slight 9-7 ATS advantage during this stretch.
Which team will come out on top in Sunday's Big Ten Championship? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The experts are a collective 70% ATS (28-12-1) in the past three days and are 65% ATS (60-33-2) since March 9, with StatFox Gary going 73% ATS (11-4), StatFox Brian posting a 65% ATS mark (17-9-1), StatFox Dave also at 65% ATS (15-8) and StatFox Scott winning 59% ATS (17-12-1) since March 9. Gary has a 67% ATS record (22-11) since Feb. 27 to improve to 56% ATS (109-86-4) for college basketball Best Bets this season. Dave's 80% ATS (8-2) mark over the past three days moves him to 61% ATS (26-17) since Feb. 28, and 52.4% ATS (172-156-5) for the season.
Wisconsin has struggled outside of Madison this season with a record of 8-7 SU (5-9-1 ATS), but the team has played well since the start of February with a 9-3 SU (7-4-1 ATS) mark. The Badgers have gotten contributions from all their key players during their Big Ten Tournament run. PF Ryan Evans has 14.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 5.0 APG and 2.0 BPG in the two victories, while SG Ben Brust has 13.0 PPG (6-of-12 threes) and 5.5 PPG in Chicago. C Jared Berggren has 9.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 2.5 BPG, making all four of his shots in Saturday's victory, and SF Sam Dekker bounced back from an 0-for-4 day against Michigan with 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting versus Indiana. All four players have also been heard from in the season series with Ohio State, as Brust had 15 points (6-of-11 FG) and 11 rebounds in the Feb. 17 win, and Evans had nine points and five boards in that victory, which was a huge improvement from his 1-for-10 shooting night in Columbus on Jan. 29. Berggren performed well in both games with 11 points and nine boards in the road loss, and 15 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in the home win. Decker had just five points at OSU, but chipped in 13 points in the most recent meeting.
Since losing badly at Wisconsin on Feb. 17, Ohio State hasn't dropped a single game, winning its seven straight contests by an average score of 67 to 54, with the only non-cover during this run coming in a 10-point win at 10.5-point underdog Northwestern. The Buckeyes are 9-5 SU (8-6 ATS) in non-home games this season, but have gone 6-2 SU in their past eight road/neutral games. PF Deshaun Thomas has been a scoring machine with 14+ points in each of his past 13 games, averaging 19.0 PPG during this stretch, and 17.5 PPG in the Big Ten Tournament. This run started with 25 points against Wisconsin on Jan. 29 and continued with 18 points in Madison on Feb. 17. PG Aaron Craft is coming off a sensational effort in Saturday's semifinal win with 20 points (9-of-13 FG), nine assists, four steals and just two turnovers. He also had a strong game at home versus the Badgers (13 points, seven rebounds), but made just 2-of-9 shots for four points at Wisconsin last month. SG Lenzelle Smith Jr. continues to misfire this month with just 5.3 PPG on 9-of-30 FG (1-of-8 threes) in the three games. He hasn't done much against the Badgers this season either, scoring only 5.5 PPG on 4-of-8 shooting. SF Sam Thompson hadn't scored in double-digits in any of his team's five straight wins before exploding on Friday for a career-best 19 points on 8-of-9 FG (3-of-4 threes). He followed that up with eight points on Saturday. Although he was held scoreless (0-for-1 FG) in the win over the Badgers, he contributed 10 points on 5-of-7 FG in the February defeat.