Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 9:05 PM
If it’s the weekend, you can count on at least one fantastic Big 10 game being on the schedule. There are so many top teams that somebody has to be playing one of the other powers! This weekend’s highlight comes Sunday afternoon when Ohio State visits Wisconsin in a game that could have a big impact on seeding in the Big Dance.
*The seeding committee doesn’t want to overfill the top four seeding rungs with the Big Ten.
*Indiana, Michigan, and Michigan State are probably locks to be seeded in the 1-2-3 ranges.
*You have to assume that at least one of Ohio State or Wisconsin will be in the 3-4 range as long as they close the season well.
*Neither the Buckeyes nor Badgers want to give power brokers from the other conferences a reason to knock them down!
Let’s run Sunday’s showdown through our favorite indicator format to see how things may play out…
Ohio State: 18-6 (8-4 in the Big 10)
Wisconsin: 17-8 (8-4 in the Big 10
That deadlock in the Big 10 is going to set the tone for our numbers today. These teams grade out extremely evenly. It wouldn’t be a surprise at all for them to finish tied or within a game of each other once the full campaign is in the books. Ohio State has the slightly better overall record. You’ll see in a moment that’s a reflection of schedule strength. Two quality squads…not quite the best in their loaded league…but among the elite nationally.
Ohio State: #12 with Sagarin, #11 with Pomeroy
Wisconsin: #13 with Sagarin, #13 with Pomeroy
You can see what we mean about how close these teams are! Jeff Sagarin of USA Today has them within one spot nationally on a scale of more than 300 teams. College basketball guru Ken Pomeroy only has them two spots apart. We’re deep enough into the season to know that those are good representations of reality. It would take something dramatic to pry these teams apart in these last few weeks of the season. They may flip-flop positions, which would surely happen if Wisconsin were to win Sunday’s meeting impressively. They are who they are.
COMPUTER STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANKINGS
Ohio State: #40 with Sagarin, #33 with Pomeroy
Wisconsin: #2 with Sagarin, #5 with Pomeroy
To the degree there’s a meaningful difference, it’s here. Even though Ohio State played Kansas in pre-conference action, they still have the softer of the two schedules. Wisconsin challenged themselves in November and December, which prepared them well for the battles ahead. Without any doubt whatsoever, Wisconsin has played one of the toughest schedules in the nation. If it doesn’t wear them out, it will have them battle-tested for any Dance challenge that comes their way. They’re not going to be afraid of anybody, having already defeated Indiana in Bloomington and Michigan at home. They seen #1 caliber seeds and beaten them.
WON-LOST RECORDS VS. SAGARIN’S TOP 50
Ohio State: 3-6
How about that…15 games against top 50 teams! When we looked at Gonzaga/St. Mary’s the other day, St. Mary’s hadn’t played anybody in the top 50 besides Gonzaga. Wisconsin has treated their whole season like its one long NCAA tournament. The fact that they have a losing record isn’t a very good sign for the Dance though. Even with wins over Indiana and Michigan, they play so many nailbiters that coin flips can go the other way on neutral courts vs. quality. Ohio State has been a disappointment in this category. You saw them lose badly at home to Indiana a week ago. It could be that the main thing separating these teams is that Ohio State wilts vs. the very best. Is facing Wisconsin in Madison an example of running into one of the very best? That’s a question handicappers must answer.
JOE LUNARDI’S BRACKETOLOGY
Ohio State: projected #4 seed
Wisconsin: projected #5 seed
We talked about the seeding issues early on. Right now Ohio State is in line for a Sweet 16 spot while Wisconsin just misses. The strength of resume issues we’ve just looked at may be foreshadowing a flip. You longtime fans know that sitting in a 4-5 slot means you probably draw a #1 seed in the Sweet 16. Both of these teams would prefer to float up to a three…but there may not be room to pull that off.
POMEROY’S ADJUSTED OFFENSE RANKINGS
Ohio State: #15
Now we move to the chess match. Ohio State has the better offense this season after you adjust for pace and strength of schedule, according to Pomeroy. Wisconsin is seen as the X’s and O’s team. But, they’ve failed to get off good shots late in a few of their close games. They needed a miracle to force overtime vs. Michigan last week. They blew a late lead vs. Minnesota the next time out because they couldn’t execute when they needed to. Perhaps Sunday’s meeting between these two will go right down to the wire, and we’ll get another chance to evaluate each team under pressure. Ohio State is the more potent of the two offenses.
POMEROY’S ADJUSTED DEFENSE RANKINGS
Ohio State: #22
Here we have a pair of top 25 defenses. You’ve heard us talking about soft defenses in these previews…well, defenses that seem okay nationally but then look soft once you’ve trimmed down to the Dance. This is what we mean. If you’re #40 in defense, you’re going to be in trouble in March because you’re going to keep running into teams who are better than you. Wisconsin grades out as top five even after adjusting for their low tempo (they play such low scoring games because they’re slow AND solid on defense.
POMEROY’S ADJUSTED TEMPO RANKINGS
Ohio State: #216
See what we mean about SLOW. Wisconsin is very patient, working to get a good shot on offense while crowding the paint on defense so their opponents also have to be patient. Don’t expect much run-and-gun basketball! Ohio State will try to push tempo…which is odd coming from a team that’s actually below average themselves. They’re 110 spots faster than Wisconsin! The home team usually controls tempo. That favors Wisconsin to win the game. But, it also makes it tougher for a host to cover a number that edges too high. Pay close attention to line value here.
It’s been a dog year in the Big 10 for the most part, because the best teams are so competitive with each other…then they’re a bit flat at high prices when stepping down in class. Will the line ever catch up? Maybe the line has caught up here. Handicappers must decide if they want to back a visitor who’s had trouble vs. elite opposition this season…or a host that will have to shoot very well to cover this number.
JIM HURLEY has an opinion here. But, he’s not going to say much more than that because it’s a light Sunday card and he has to protect this play for his paying clients. You can purchase Sunday basketball right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. The NBA All-Star Break is a great time to map out your plans for the rest of college and pro basketball. We hope you’ll take advantage of that opportunity today by talking to one of our representatives.
Back with you tomorrow to study Notre Dame at Pittsburgh from the Big East on Big Monday. Other possibilities for showcase coverage this week include Indiana at Michigan State, Florida at Missouri, Kansas at Oklahoma State, and Minnesota at Ohio State. It’s WALL-TO-WALL BASKETBALL, so enter the house of winners with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!