Columbus, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - The 2014-15 regular season comes to an end on Sunday for a pair of Big Ten Conference teams, as the sixth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers pay a visit to the 23rd-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.
Wisconsin has enjoyed unprecedented success this season, logging a 27-3 overall record and winning its 18th Big Ten title in going 15-2 in conference. The Badgers claimed a 76-63 win at Minnesota earlier this week to give them victories in 12 of their last 13 games, and establish their best start both overall and in Big Ten history. The No. 1 seed in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament, Wisconsin is seeking its 10th win in 12 true road games this season.
Ohio State coach Thad Matta (297-91 at OSU, 399-122 overall) is one win away from logging 400 victories in his career, and that win will also give him more victories than any coach in program history. For that to happen here though, the Buckeyes will need to continue the solid play they've demonstrated of late in winning their last three games, the most recent of which being a 77-67 decision at Penn State on Wednesday. OSU has won seven straight home games, and is 18-1 in Columbus this season.
Ohio State owns an 86-67 lead in the all-time series with Wisconsin, and this is the only scheduled meeting between the two teams this season. The most recent encounter took place in Madison on Feb. 1, 2014, with the 24th-ranked Buckeyes besting the 14th-ranked Badgers in a 59-58 final.
It's almost a foregone conclusion that Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky will be named the Big Ten Player of the Year this week when the league announces its major awards. The 7-foot center continues to impress, and that was certainly the case in the Badgers' win at Minnesota the last time out, as he tallied 25 point, seven assists and six rebounds, all while shooting 10-of-15 from the floor. Sam Dekker added 20 points and six boards to the cause, while Nigel Hayes finished with a line of 12 points, nine boards and three helpers. As a team, the Badgers hit 50 percent of both their field goals and 3-point tries, while being almost perfect at the foul line (10-of-12).
Kaminsky (18.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.6 bpg) is among the Big Ten's top performers in nearly every statistical category, and he shoots a stellar 55.4 percent from the field, 42.1 percent beyond the arc, and 74.8 percent at the charity stripe. Dekker (13.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Hayes (12.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg) offer support, helping the Badgers put up 71.7 ppg while at the same time allowing a league-low 56.0 ppg. That latter figure actually ranks the team in the top-10 nationally as the regular season draws to a close.
Kaminsky's biggest challenger for the league's POY award is Ohio State's D'Angelo Russell, as the gifted freshman has taken the Big Ten by storm. He is coming off another outstanding effort in the Buckeyes' recent win at Penn State, as he drained 5-of-8 3-point attempts en route to 28 points, and he came up with six rebounds, three assists and three steals as well. Shannon Scott and Jae'Sean Tate tacked on 13 points apiece for OSU, which scored to 23 points at the charity stripe and logged a 38-31 advantage on the glass.
Russell (19.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 5.2 apg) has turned in a rookie campaign for the ages, as the 6-foot-5 guard ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring and third in assists, all while shooting 43.2 percent from beyond the arc and 75 percent at the free-throw line. Sam Thompson (10.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg) and Marc Loving (10.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg) are both averaging double figures in the scoring column as well for the Buckeyes, who produce 76.9 ppg to rank second in the conference. Their average yield of 61.3 ppg also has them in second place, and they are the league's top shooting team (.493). Scott is the Big Ten's top assist man with 178, and he leads the team in steals with 52.