Penn St.-Wisconsin Preview
Wisconsin knows it’s headed for a 13th consecutive NCAA
tournament, but it would like to avoid going in for a third
straight year with a loss in the Big Ten quarterfinals fresh in
Toppling the 13th-ranked Badgers might be just the resume boost
Penn State needs.
Third-seeded Wisconsin hopes to start a lengthier stay at
Conseco Fieldhouse on Friday night against the Nittany Lions, who
almost certainly need another win to have any shot of making their
first NCAA tournament in a decade.
The Badgers (23-7) won the 2008 Big Ten tournament in
Indianapolis, the fourth time in five years they’d at least
advanced to the championship game, but their visits to Conseco have
been brief the past two years.
Each time Wisconsin was seeded fourth, and each time it played
dreadful offense. Coach Bo Ryan’s team shot 36.0 percent in a 61-57
loss to Ohio State two years ago, then shot an atrocious 28.6
percent while falling 58-54 to Illinois in last season’s
On both occasions, the Badgers went on to lose in the second
round of the NCAA tournament.
“I can’t say winning or losing early (in Indianapolis) has been
a factor in the NCAA tournament,” Ryan said. “If you talk to
coaches, and you talk to them on a different week, they might say
getting bumped in that first round actually helped us.”
Wisconsin lost 93-65 at top-ranked Ohio State on Sunday, when in
the Buckeyes made 14 of 15 3-pointers. The Badgers haven’t dropped
consecutive games since a six-game skid Jan. 11-31, 2009.
“You know how our guys are,” Ryan said. “After a game, we go to
practice. It’s not like it’s, oh, that was an eye-opener, or that
was a message that was sent. Ohio State can send that message to a
lot of people.”
Penn State (17-13) has shown it can compete with some of the Big
Ten’s upper-echelon teams – at least at home. It owns three home
wins over top-20 opponents, including a 56-52 victory over then-No.
17 Wisconsin on Jan. 29.
That snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Badgers, but the
Nittany Lions couldn’t pull off a season sweep. They shot 53.1
percent in a Feb. 20 trip to Madison, but lost 76-66 as Wisconsin
got 22 points apiece from Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil.
Coach Ed DeChellis’ team lost eight of its first nine on the
road, but has picked it up away from the Bryce Jordan Center as it
tries to make its first NCAA tournament since 2001 – also its last
Big Ten semifinal appearance. The Nittany Lions have won their last
three away from home, including Thursday’s 61-55 first-round win
“This is March, you’ve got to win,” DeChellis said. “You’ve got
to continue to build your resume.”
Penn State won Thursday with star guard Talor Battle scoring
just 13 points – 7.2 below his average – but it’s actually been
better off when Battle hasn’t had to carry the load. The Lions are
14-8 when he scores 23 or fewer and 3-5 when he scores more.
Battle averaged 22.5 points – hitting 10 of 22 3-pointers –
against Wisconsin this season.
Leuer, meanwhile, has averaged 20.0 points against Penn State
this season. The Badgers are 12-1 when he scores at least 20 points
– the exact record they have when Jordan Taylor scores that
The sixth seed has beaten the third seed in four of the past
five Big Ten tournaments.