Wisconsin (13-9, 5-4) will welcome Ohio State (14-9, 6-4) on Thursday at 6 P.M. on ESPN.

This marks the only matchup between the two teams this season. Both teams are on the bubble for the NCAA tournament and will be trying to boost their tournament résumés. Wisconsin is currently a half game behind Ohio State in the Big Ten Standings.

Projected Starters

Projected Wisconsin Starters

G: Bronson Koenig (13.4 PPG, 2.2 APG)
G: Zak Showalter (7.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG)
F: Nigel Hayes (17.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.5 APG)
F: Vitto Brown (8.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG)
F: Ethan Happ (12.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG)

Projected Ohio State Starters

G: A.J. Harris (3.0 PPG, 1.6 APG)
F: Jae’Sean Tate (11.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG)
F: Keita Bates-Diop (11.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG)
F: Marc Loving (13.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG)
C: Daniel Giddens (4.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG)

Summary

Ohio State gets most of their production from the forward position, getting double-digit points from Jae’Sean Tate, Keita Bates-Diop, and Marc Loving. Sixth man JaQuan Lyles is a utility guy for the Buckeyes, averaging 9.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game.

The Buckeyes’ forwards are full of slashers rather than shooters. Solid, physical interior defense will be a key for the Badgers. Defensive rebounding will also be important for Wisconsin, with the Buckeye’s being a formidable offensive rebounding team because of their length and athleticism.

The Badgers will continue to go to their bread and butter of Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ. Over the current four-game winning streak, Nigel Hayes is averaging 22 points per game, while only making three three-pointers during the stretch. Hayes has been getting to the rim, and to the foul line, with more regularity. Even with the quiet outing against Illinois, Happ is averaging 18 points over the season-high four-game win streak.

Wisconsin will look for Bronson Koenig to bounce back after fouling out in only 23 minutes, a season low, against Illinois. Vitto Brown figures to return into the starting lineup for the Badgers after coming off the bench at Illinois because of an upper body injury and Illinois’ small lineup.

Outlook

The Badgers need to win this one, and basically every game they’re supposed to win down the stretch, to keep their tournament hopes alive. With good rim protection, solid rebounding, and another efficient night from Hayes and Happ, the Badgers should be in a good position to get over the Buckeyes.


Photo: Greg Bartram / USA Today Sports