College Hoops Saturday: Your Commentary

February 11th, 2011
The day has arrived for those who pegged Saturday as the first loss for the undefeated Ohio State (24-0, 11-0) Buckeyes, who visit Wisconsin (18-5, 8-3) in a contest that will go a long way in determining the tenor of the Big Ten race from this point forward. That seems to be the forgotten aspect of this contest, with many choosing to focus on the question of whether or not Thad Matta's crew can go undefeated (personally, this is a silly question as it hasn't been done (tournament included) since 1976). Bo Ryan's Badgers are 13-0 at home this season, and during his tenure as head coach Wisconsin is a sparkling 149-11 at the Kohl Center. This is the first meeting between the two programs with the Buckeyes atop the national polls since 1962, when the Badgers pulled off a memorable victory within the confines of the Field House. That was also the last time Wisconsin beat a top-ranked team as they're 1-18 all-time against #1.

Wisconsin's chances of winning begin on the defensive end of the floor, where they'll need to provide a solution to the question of to defend freshman Jared Sullinger (18.0 ppg, 10.3 rpg). Simply put when Sullinger catches the ball with both feet in the paint it's essentially over, with the question being whether or not the phenom is headed to the foul line in season of a three-point play. The good news for Wisconsin is that they can send some players with height at Sullinger, most notably Jon Leuer (19.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg) and Keaton Nankivil (9.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg). But with those two being so vital to the Badger attack offensively they need to avoid early foul trouble. Also making things difficult from a defensive standpoint is Ohio State's overall unselfishness, as the Buckeyes average 16.9 assists per game and assist on nearly 60% of their made baskets. Disrupting passing lanes for the likes of Williams Buford, Aaron Craft, Jon Diebler and David Lighty will be crucial for Wisconsin defensively.

Offensively the two teams are very similar in regards to points per possession (1.19) and efficiency (Ohio State- 118.5, Wisconsin- 118.7), but their possessions per game averages are separated by seven per game. Wisconsin is the more deliberate of the two teams, and senior point guard Jordan Taylor is among the best in the country at running the show. Taylor averages 17.7 points and 4.7 assists while turning the ball over just 1.2 times per game. Slowing him down will be key for the Buckeyes but Craft has shown himself to be both willing and capable of accepting the challenge on the defensive end of the floor. Leuer is a versatile forward who can score from just about anywhere on the court, and Nankivil can be dangerous in pick-and-pop situations (49.4% 3PT). It should come as no surprise if Wisconsin were to look to get Sullinger and Dallas Lauderdale in situations early where they have to defend Taylor coming off of a ball screen, with the hope being to get a mismatch that results in either a bucket or foul.

Ohio State averages nearly 78 points per game while shooting 49.6% from the field, a product of their ability to shoot from a variety of areas on the floor. Ohio State gets 53% of their points on two-pointers with Sullinger being a major reason for that number. But the Buckeyes also shoot 40% from beyond the arc, and Diebler is one of the all-time greats in Big Ten history in that regard. But Wisconsin allows opponents to shoot just 33.9% from distance, doing a good job of challenging looks on the perimeter. Rebounding will also be key for the Badgers, who have a rebounding margin of plus-2.1 compared to Ohio State's plus-5.1. If Wisconsin can take care of the boards (Ohio State has an offensive rebounding percentage of 35.9%) while taking care of the basketball (Buckeye opponents average nearly 17 turnovers per game) they've got a good chance of defending their home floor.

Also of import on Saturday are a pair of Big East matchup, with Syracuse visiting Louisville and Pittsburgh taking on VIllanova at The Pavilion. Rick Pitino's Cardinals tend to do a good job of attacking the Syracuse zone, but while the Orange have improved defensively it was their execution on the offensive end late that cost them against Georgetown. Pittsburgh looked fine in their first game without Ashton Gibbs, and while they clearly aren't the perimeter shooting team they can be with the junior on the floor Jamie Dixon has enough talent to win at Villanova and remain comfortably atop the Big East standings. Old Dominion/VCU and San Diego State visiting UNLV are two other games that should be entertaining to watch, making for yet another action-packed Saturday.

Top 25
2:00 PM (1) Ohio State at (14) Wisconsin (ESPN)
4:00 PM Iowa State at (2) Kansas (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Baylor at (3) Texas (ESPN)
9:00 PM (4) Pittsburgh at (10) Villanova (ESPN)
8:00 PM (6) San Diego State at UNLV (CBS College)
12:00 PM (7) Notre Dame at South Florida (ESPN3)
6:00 PM Utah at (8) Brigham Young (The Mtn.)
12:00 PM (13) Syracuse at (15) Louisville (ESPN)
9:00 PM Fresno State at (17) Utah State (ESPN3)
1:00 PM (18) Kentucky at (24) Vanderbilt (CBS)
6:00 PM Tennessee at (19) Florida (ESPN)
1:30 PM Oklahoma at (20) Missouri (ESPN3)
1:00 PM (21) North Carolina at Clemson (ESPN3)
1:30 PM (22) Texas A&M at Texas Tech (ESPN3)
10:30 PM (23) Saint Mary's at San Francisco

NCAA Division I Games
11:00 AM Maine at Stony Brook (ESPNU)
12:00 PM Saint Louis at Richmond (ESPN2)
12:00 PM Northeastern at Georgia State
12:00 PM IPFW at Oakland
12:00 PM Long Island at St. Francis (NY) (MSG)
1:00 PM Maryland at Boston College (ESPN3)
1:00 PM Temple at Dayton (ESPNU)
1:00 PM Radford at Virginia Military
1:05 PM Drake at Indiana State
1:30 PM LSU at Arkansas (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Hofstra at Delaware
2:00 PM Monmouth at Fairleigh Dickinson (MSG)
2:00 PM Charlotte at Rhode Island
2:00 PM Youngstown State at Cleveland State (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Longwood at Savannah State
2:00 PM Old Dominion at VCU (ESPN2)
3:00 PM Colgate at American
3:00 PM Virginia at Florida State
3:00 PM Texas-Arlington at Texas State (ESPN3)
3:00 PM Southeastern Louisiana at Northwestern State
3:00 PM Samford at Western Carolina
3:30 PM Bucknell at Holy Cross
3:30 PM Belmont at Campbell
3:30 PM TCU at Wyoming (The Mtn.)
4:00 PM Oregon State at UCLA (FSN)
4:00 PM Milwaukee at Illinois-Chicago
4:00 PM North Texas at Western Kentucky (ESPN2)
4:00 PM North Carolina-Wilmington at Towson
4:00 PM Indiana at Michigan (BTN)
4:00 PM La Salle at St. Bonaventure
4:00 PM UNC Greensboro at Charleston
4:00 PM DePaul at West Virginia (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Mississippi at Alabama (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Lehigh at Army
4:00 PM William & Mary at Drexel
4:00 PM New Mexico State at Louisiana Tech
4:00 PM Green Bay at Loyola (IL)
4:00 PM Kent State at Northern Illinois
4:00 PM Georgia at South Carolina (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Central Connecticut State at Bryant
4:30 PM Delaware State at Bethune-Cookman
4:30 PM Buffalo at Eastern Michigan
4:30 PM Central Arkansas at McNeese State
4:30 PM Florida Gulf Coast at Mercer
4:30 PM Howard at North Carolina A&T
4:30 PM Coppin State at South Carolina State
4:30 PM Ohio at Western Michigan
4:30 PM South Dakota at N.J.I.T.
5:00 PM Marshall at East Carolina
5:00 PM Tulane at Houston
5:00 PM James Madison at George Mason
5:30 PM North Dakota at Chicago State
5:30 PM Florida International at Middle Tennessee
5:30 PM Alcorn State at Mississippi Valley State
6:00 PM Davidson at Furman
6:00 PM Southern Miss at Memphis (ESPN2)
6:00 PM California at Washington State
6:00 PM Portland at Loyola Marymount
6:30 PM Maryland-Eastern Shore at Florida A&M
6:30 PM Alabama A&M at Alabama State
6:30 PM Bowling Green at Central Michigan
6:30 PM Texas Southern at Jackson State
6:30 PM Hampton at Norfolk State
7:00 PM Mississippi State at Auburn (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Hartford at Boston University (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Brown at Harvard
7:00 PM Oklahoma State at Nebraska (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Yale at Dartmouth
7:00 PM Seton Hall at Rutgers (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Pennsylvania at Columbia
7:00 PM Princeton at Cornell
7:00 PM Chattanooga at Appalachian State
7:00 PM Tulsa at UCF
7:00 PM Eastern Illinois at Eastern Kentucky
7:00 PM Louisiana-Lafayette at Florida Atlantic
7:00 PM UNC Asheville at Gardner-Webb
7:00 PM New Hampshire at UMBC
7:00 PM Lafayette at Navy
7:00 PM Charleston Southern at Presbyterian
7:00 PM Texas-San Antonio at Stephen F. Austin
7:00 PM Miami (OH) at Toledo
7:00 PM Mount St. Mary's at Wagner
7:00 PM Coastal Carolina at Winthrop
7:00 PM Georgia Southern at Wofford
7:05 PM Elon at Citadel
7:30 PM Stetson at Kennesaw State
7:30 PM Ball State at Akron
7:30 PM Tennessee Tech at Tennessee-Martin
7:45 PM Southeast Missouri State at Morehead State
8:00 PM Rice at UAB
8:00 PM Detroit at Butler (ESPN2)
8:00 PM High Point at Liberty
8:00 PM Arkansas-Little Rock at Louisiana-Monroe
8:00 PM Texas A&M-CC at Sam Houston State
8:00 PM Robert Morris (IL) at SIU-Edwardsville
8:05 PM Evansville at Bradley
8:05 PM Centenary at UMKC
8:05 PM Missouri State at Illinois State
8:05 PM Nicholls State at Lamar
8:05 PM Wright State at Valparaiso
8:30 PM Stanford at Washington
8:30 PM UC Santa Barbara at UC Irvine
8:30 PM IUPUI at North Dakota State
8:30 PM San Diego at Santa Clara
8:30 PM Western Illinois at South Dakota State
8:30 PM Robert Morris at St. Francis (PA) (ESPN3)
8:45 PM Jacksonville State at Murray State
8:45 PM Tennessee State at Austin Peay
8:45 PM Denver at Troy
9:00 PM New Mexico at Colorado State (The Mtn.)
9:00 PM Kansas State at Colorado (ESPNU)
9:00 PM Northern Colorado at Montana
9:00 PM Southern University at Arkansas-Pine Bluff
9:00 PM Texas-Pan American at Utah Valley
9:05 PM Northern Arizona at Idaho State
9:05 PM Southern Methodist at UTEP
9:30 PM Oral Roberts at Southern Utah
10:00 PM UC Riverside at Cal Poly
10:00 PM Nevada at San Jose State (ESPN3)
10:00 PM UC Davis at Pacific
10:00 PM Wichita State at Northern Iowa (ESPN2)
10:00 PM Gonzaga at Pepperdine
10:05 PM Weber State at Eastern Washington
10:05 PM Long Beach State at Cal State Northridge
10:30 PM Oregon at USC
11:00 PM Idaho at Boise State (ESPNU)