COLUMBUS, Ohio – Wisconsin had aleady clinched the Big Ten title before Sunday’s game at Ohio State, a game that came exactly a week before the NCAA tournament brackets are released.
The Badgers are good. Very good. They looked the part of a No. 1 NCAA tournament seed in a 72-48 dismantling of Ohio State, but afterwards longtime Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan would have nothing to do with campaigning or even discussing such matters.
"I know Johnny Appleseed," Ryan said. "I don’t know anything about a No. 1 seed."
Ryan then started talking about how people had asked him last year about seeding — and how he’d dismissed it then, too. He said he didn’t have time for bracketologists or advanced statistics, either.
"We turn the channel at home when they start talking seeds," Ryan said.
Next Sunday, Wisconsin will be watching the tournament selection show closely. The Badgers are 28-3. They’re confident, experienced and unselfish, and a year after making the Final Four the pieces are in place for another potential run. Sunday’s game at Ohio State was over shortly after it started because Wisconsin was too tall, too precise, too well rounded for an Ohio State team that’s led by super freshman D’Angelo Russell and just hopes it can get contributions from everyone else.
Russell scored 17, but he needed 18 shots to get there. Wisconsin held Ohio State to 34 percent shooting, won the rebound battle 41-27 and got 14 bench points vs. just two from Ohio State. It was the final home game for four Ohio State seniors — the three who played combined to shoot 6-of-22 — and in a way it was a throwback for the Ohio State crowd.
Trying to beat Wisconsin is what it must have been like trying to beat Ohio State in March 2011 and 2012. Before Sunday, Ohio State coach Thad Matta was 13-0 in March home games.
"(Wisconsin) has what we had a few years ago in terms of everybody is connected out there," Matta said. "There’s a lot of skill at every position."
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The Badgers shot 50 percent Sunday and three players scored in double figures. For the season, they’re rated as the nation’s top offense by KenPom.com’s advanced stats, the kind Ryan said he’s not interested in discussing.
You need neither a calculator nor a PhD to see that 7-footer Frank Kaminsky (20 points Sunday) is versatile and hard to guard and that 6-foot-9 Sam Dekker (10) can play inside and out and that Bronson Koenig (15) is a good enough shooter to make opponents think twice about bringing extra help down to the block. Wisconsin is hopeful that senior guard Traevon Jackson, son of Ohio State legend Jimmy Jackson, will soon be back from injury.
Ryan said the "next game will be its own entity," another way of saying he didn’t want to talk about the future. Maybe Wisconsin is playing for a No. 1 seed in next week’s Big Ten tournament. Maybe the Badgers need help from other teams nationally. Wisconsin has lost twice in conference and lost at home to Duke, a lock for a No. 1 seed, in December.
The ingredients are there. Sunday was another example of how dominating Wisconsin can be.
"I like the consistency," is about as close to an admission of confidence as Ryan would get Sunday.
Next Sunday, we’ll know the path his team has to follow if it wants to get back to the Final Four. The Badgers look the part.