Time: 8:30 p.m.
TV: Big Ten Network
Location: Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Ill.
Ohio State 8 (No. 2 Big Ten)
Northwestern 43 (No. 7 Big Ten)
Line: Ohio State -5½ (O/U 132)
Ohio State Players to Watch: F Jared Sullinger, 6-9 So. (16.8 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 54.9% FG); G William Buford, 6-6 Sr. (15.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.9 apg); F Deshaun Thomas, 6-7 So. (15.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 53% FG). With 312 points this season, Buford has become Value City Arena’s all-time leading scorer, passing Terrence Dials (2002-06). Buford, who has made 47 of his last 50 free throws, is sixth on the Buckeyes’ all-time scoring list with 1,861 points.
Northwestern Players to Watch: F John Shurna, 6-9 Sr. (20.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.7 apg); F Drew Crawford, 6-5 Jr. (16.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 48.4% FG); G Dave Sobolewski, 6-1 Fr. (9.2 ppg, 3.6 apg, 2.7 rpg). With 1,201 points, including 451 this season, Crawford ranks 17th on Northwestern’s all-time scoring list with 1,201 points – and he still has a year to go. By the end of next season, it’s likely Shurna and Crawford will be the Wildcats’ top-2 leading all-time scorers.
Storylines: It’s hard to quantify just how big this game is for both teams. Indiana gave Ohio State hope in its quest for its third consecutive Big Ten regular-season title. The Buckeyes are a game-and-a-half behind Michigan State, which has already clinched a share of the title, but they go to East Lansing Sunday for the regular-season finale. Northwestern is currently tied for seventh in the Big Ten (with Iowa) and is considered on the NCAA Tournament bubble. A win over the No. 11 Buckeyes would significantly add to the Wildcats’ resume. Northwestern has never played in the NCAA Tournament.
Keys: Buford scored 28 points – then a career-high – with five 3-pointers as the Buckeyes defeated Northwestern 87-53 in both team’s Big Ten opener on Dec. 28. OSU shot 48 percent of its field goal and 10 of 20 from the 3-point line, while holding the Wildcats to 32.1 percent overall in the victory. The Buckeyes lead the Big Ten in scoring margin at plus-17.1, and they rank second in scoring (74.7), scoring defense (57.6) and shooting percentage (48.3). Northwestern rank second to Indiana in the league by hitting 38.3 percent of its 3-point shots. Ohio State is ninth at 33.3. However, the Buckeyes play strong 3-point defense, allowing opponents to shoot just 31 percent. The Buckeyes are second in the conference (behind only Michigan State) in rebounding margin at plus-6.9. Northwestern has been out-rebounded by its opponents by 5.1 per game. Northwestern is second to Purdue in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.5-to-1, while Ohio State ranks fourth in the league at 1.3-to-1. Ohio State leads the all-time series 110-45 and 44-31 in Evanston. Northwestern is 11-4 at Welsh-Ryan Arena this season, including a 5-3 mark in Big Ten play. OSU 5-4 away from home, including 4-3 in the Big Ten.
The Bottom Line: Despite the way it has played of late, it’s hard to imagine Ohio State not taking advantage of its second chance.
The Pick: Ohio State 70, Northwestern 63
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 84-53