Time for the final act.
No. 7 Ohio State and No. 4 Illinois meet on Saturday afternoon in Columbus for the final game of the regular season with an awful lot on the line for both teams. For starters, each team has a legitimate case to be made for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Illinois has the inside track at the moment to make that happen, but a win for the Buckeyes certainly could be enough to sneak in and steal it away.
Ohio State had won 10 of 11 games through January and most of February, catapulting them to a top-5 national ranking and putting them firmly in the mix as one of the nation's best teams. But after three consecutive losses to Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa, the Scarlet and Gray are suddenly desperate for a win. Nobody wants to go into a post-season tournament with four straight defeats.
Meanwhile, since losing to Ohio State back on January 16, Illinois has ripped off 10 victories in its last 11 games - including a curb-stomping of Michigan on Tuesday night. Even more impressively, they've won their last three games without All-American candidate Ayo Dosunmu, who's been out with a facial injury since the Michigan State loss on February 23.
Chris Holtmann's team has dealt with a number of injuries throughout the year and have tried to gut through them as best they can. Kyle Young and C.J. Walker are both celebrating their Senior Day on Saturday, but neither of them have gotten through the year unscathed. While both players individually told the media this week they haven't yet decided whether they would come back for one final season in Columbus, Holtmann indicated in his press conference Friday that Walker was going to professionalize.
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Brendan Gulick and Brett Hiltbrand break down the matchup with their preview video at the top of the page. You can watch the Buckeyes Saturday afternoon on ESPN or on the WatchESPN App at 4 p.m. Bob Wischusen and Dick Vitale have the call. We will stream Chris Holtmann's press conference afterwards and we will also have a live video stream with instant analysis from the arena. Join us on our YouTube channel (linked above).
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