Going into their Feb. 12 matchup with Wisconsin, Ohio State was a perfect 11-0 in the Big Ten and 24-0 overall. With the leadership of seniors Jon Diebler, David Lighty and junior William Buford coupled with the talent of freshman sensation Jared Sullinger, the Buckeyes seemed poised to claim their first undefeated record in school history as well as the undisputed number one overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
Behind a Jordan Taylor-led rally, Wisconsin erased a large second half deficit to rally for a huge 71-67 win at the Kohl Center. What made this even worse was the fact that Wisconsin had derailed Jim Tressel's hopes for an undefeated season about four months earlier.
Three days later, Buford scored 23 points in a convincing home win over Michigan State; a prelude to Ohio State's upcoming matchup with conference rival Purdue. Thad Matta's crew were again undone on the road, losing 76-63. E'Twaun Moore gave the Boilermakers 38 points. This was the Buckeyes' second loss in three games - two losses against some of the best competition in the country.
Before their season finale against the Badgers, the red and white cakewalked through three conference games, defeating Illinois (89-70), Indiana (82-61), and Penn State (82-61). As evidenced by the scores, the Bucks had no trouble; Sunday's rematch wasn't much different.
Diebler, Lighty, and Dallas Lauderdale were determined to avoid disappointment on their honorary senior day. Ohio State showed the Badgers that their previous matchup was a fluke, beating Bo Ryan's experienced group convincingly (93-65). After missing his first three point attempt, Diebler, better known as "3-bler", hit his next seven, finishing with 27 points. His hot hand was infectious: the Bucks made 14 of 15 3-pointers, setting NCAA division 1 records in percentage (93.3%) and streak (14 in a row). Although he didn't contribute to the frenzy beyond the arc, Sullinger contributed with 22 points and eight rebounds. The freshman accused a Wisconsin fan of spitting in his face on Feb. 12 and said that he wanted to bead the Badgers by 50. His team came pretty close.
The Buckeyes will enjoy an easy ride to the finals of the Big Ten tournament, their possible opponents as follows: #9 Minnesota, #8 Northwestern, #4 Michigan, #5 Illinois. Ohio State will be a number one seed when brackets are released this Sunday, notwithstanding their performance in the Big Ten tournament.
With the number one ranking in the coaches' poll firmly in hand, the Buckeyes are peaking at the right time. They say that their is no dominant team in college basketball this season, and rightly so. But, the Ohio State Buckeyes are the closest thing to a dominant team in this year's NCAA tournament field. I foresee a plethora of tournament brackets with "OSU" printed on the single line in the middle of the page.