Wisconsin-Ohio St. Preview
(AP) - There are so many goals left for Wisconsin to attain even if it already has wrapped up the top seed in next week's Big Ten tournament.
A bigger prize may await the sixth-ranked Badgers when the NCAA Tournament begins in less than two weeks.
Guard Josh Gasser knows a victory in the regular-season finale Sunday at No. 23 Ohio State would keep Wisconsin (27-3, 15-2) in the mix for a top seed in the NCAAs.
"A big road win at Ohio State against a really good team would be huge for our resume," Gasser said. "We still have a shot at a (No. 1) seed. I know seeding doesn't really matter that much, but you'd still like to be the highest you possibly can be, so why not try to win games?"
It's all about keeping momentum, associate head coach Greg Gard said.
"You're also still fighting for a seed line. Can we get to a (No. 1) seed in the NCAA Tournament? These guys know, they see bracketology," Gard said. "It's human nature to listen to that stuff. You control the controllables, and that's Sunday playing the best we can against a really good team."
On an afternoon, no less, that promises to be emotionally charged with the Buckeyes (22-8, 11-6) sending off their seniors.
It's a showcase game, too, for freshman D'Angelo Russell. The high-scoring guard and Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky are on short lists for consideration for national player of the year awards.
Badgers point guard Traevon Jackson will miss his 14th straight game because of a right foot injury. A team spokesman said that the senior was traveling with the team but had not yet been cleared for basketball activities.
Coach Bo Ryan has indicated that Jackson may also not be cleared in time for the Big Ten Tournament. The Badgers improved to 12-1 without Jackson as Kaminsky scored 25 points and Sam Dekker added 20 in Thursday's 76-63 win at Minnesota.
Wisconsin, though, has lost the last two meetings with Ohio State, falling 59-58 in the most recent Feb. 1, 2014. Kaminsky shot 1 of 6 and finished with eight points.
The Buckeyes enter this contest riding a three-game winning streak after beating Penn State 77-67 on Wednesday. A victory Sunday would give coach Thad Matta 400 for his career and 298 at Ohio State, which would be the most in school history.
"Honestly, I just want to win the next game," Matta said. "To me, there's no difference going into (Sunday's) game than any other game I've gone into mentally.
"It's the last regular season game, it's the last home game of the year. If (400 wins and the school record) ever happens, I'm sure I'll take a deep breath and reflect on it. But I really haven't (yet)."
Matta is pleased that his squad is finding a groove with the conference and NCAA Tournaments around the corner. Russell has scored 28 points in back-to-back games and senior Shannon Scott had 13 - 5.1 above his season average - in two of the last three.
Matta has been around long enough, though, not to take too much stock in past success.
"We're playing better basketball right now. Can we take a step forward? Yes. But we can take a step backwards, too," the coach said. "Every game has a different twist to it."
The Buckeyes are 18-1 at home and have won three of the last four matchups with Wisconsin at Value City Arena.