Nobody likes having to play Bo Ryan. Wisconsin fans know that and embraced it, and Ohio State fans know it in advance of Sunday's Big Ten Tournament Championship Game.
Ryan's squads plays grind-it-out ball, with the slow tempo, the defense stifling, and the offense nice and methodical. All those elements were on display Saturday as the Badgers got a 68-56 win over the Indiana Hoosiers, their 12th win in a row over a team that was ranked No. 1 in the country on three occasions this season and was en route to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Jack Moore, who is reporting on the Big Ten tourney from Chicago for Badgers blog Bucky's 5th Quarter, recognized the gameplan:
This was Wisconsin Basketball.
The pace was slow. The defense was tough. Every rebound was contested. Contact was abundant. The gritty and gutty narrative was served in spades.
But there was more. The offense flowed. Entry passes were sharp. Forwards worked the post. Guards hit jump shots. Passes led to buckets. It was this slow yet brutally -- beautifully? -- efficient offense, paced by Ryan Evans in the post and Ben Brust on the outside, that eventually sunk Indiana.
Bucky's 5th Quarter writer Jackson Dahlquist came up with a gameplan for the Badgers to beat Ohio State on Sunday, and surprisingly, it centers around Ryan Evans, the 6'6 post player with the flattop, a shaky offensive game, jump-shot free throw attempts and downright demonic interior defensive skills.
For Ohio State fans, the reaction was a bit more subdued - not surprising, considering the Buckeyes needed late buckets and stops to knock off Michigan State, and the fact that this is their fifth Big Ten title game in a row. And as Matt Brown wrote in his Big Ten title preview, they remember a 71-49 beatdown that made the Buckeyes look like a "fringe NCAA team" just a month ago. But they're still optimistic about Sunday's match-up:
Prediction: Holy war. It won't be pretty, but you better believe the Buckeyes are going to be pumped up for this game. Thanks to another big performance from Slam Thompson and some key Thomas buckets in closing, why not take the Buckeyes to cut down the nets in the Windy City? 56-51, OSU.
It wasn't a fun day for the fans of losing teams. Indiana site The Crimson Quarry did not take another loss to Ryan easily:
What can I say? We've seen this game before. The Badgers forced the Hoosiers into their game, hit some big shots, weathered some IU runs, and came out on top. I'm not going to break the game down because there is no point in it. We knew coming in that teams like Wisconsin were a weakness, and that obviously hasn't been overcome.
Michigan State blog The Only Colors managed to keep a bright outlook - and, considering their time doing battle in the country's toughest league is over, they had a sunny view for the NCAA Tournament:
Next up: The NCAA Tournament, and a break from playing Big Ten teams! Overall, I'm feeling pretty good about this team right now. The big men are playing great, Appling is playing aggressive and the defense is good. If Appling can be a little more efficient and Harris can be healthy enough to score a little more, MSU should have a good run in it. One bad matchup or poor performance can end things, though. MSU's floor is still high, but they need more complete efforts.