With No. 16 Wisconsin’s 63-60 win over No. 8 Ohio State, No. 6 Michigan State clinches at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title. The Spartans own a two game lead over both Ohio State and No. 11 Michigan with just two games left to play.
That, of course, doesn’t guarantee an outright league title, especially with the schedule that the Spartans have left. They have to go to Assembly Hall to take on No. 24 Indiana on Tuesday — a place that both Ohio State and Kentucky have lost — before hosting the Buckeyes in the season finale next Saturday. Assuming Ohio State avoids getting tripped up at Northwestern and Indiana continues their dominance at home, we’ll have at least one power conference’s regular season champion decided in a head-to-head battle on the last day of the regular season.
Having said that, the question that we have to ask is in regards to Ohio State: just how good is this team?
Prior to Sunday, the issue of most concern for the Buckeyes involved William Buford and his inconsistency. In OSU’s last two losses, Buford was a combined 5-24 from the floor, scoring just 10 points total and missing all five of his threes. On Sunday, he went 4-11 from the floor but knocked down a couple of threes and finished with 15 points to go along with nine boards.
In fact, all of Ohio State’s supporting cast contributed. Deshaun Thomas had 23 points and seven boards. Aaron Craft went for 13 points. It was Jared Sullinger, who finished with just eight points and six boards, that was the liability. Not only did Wisconsin’s Jared Berggren hold him in check, but he exposed him defensively. Twice in the second half, Ohio State was able to gain some separation from the Badgers. The vaunted Ohio State defense cracked, however, allowing the Badgers back into the game.
Jordan Taylor isn’t having the kind of season we all expected from him, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is a killer in the pick-and-roll, and he showed it on Sunday. The two biggest plays, however, were when he found Berggren for a wide-open dunk and, two possessions late, hit him for a three from the wing that gave the Badgers their final lead.
On both of those baskets, Berggren was able to get open because Sullinger lost him defensively.
Having lost three of their last five games, Ohio State appears closer to being a three seed than a one seed. More importantly, is this team too flawed to make a run to the Final Four?
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.