(AP) – The math is pretty simple now in the Big Ten.
Powerhouse Wisconsin is up by three games with four left in the regular season. Second-place teams Maryland, Michigan State and Purdue need an unlikely collapse in Madison.
The challengers must make their moves with two weeks left on the schedule, starting with the No. 14 Terrapins. Fifth-ranked Wisconsin (25-2, 13-1) travels to College Park on Tuesday night for the start of a tough season-ending stretch.
The Badgers also host the Spartans on Sunday before finishing up with trips to Minnesota and Ohio State.
”This stretch right here – seriously, if you look at anybody else’s last four games – this is quite the stretch, I’m sure,” coach Bo Ryan said Monday on a teleconference. ”But our players right now, we’re just concentrating on the next one.”
And quite the matchup it could be against the Terrapins (22-5, 10-4).
They might be Big Ten rookies, but the team was used to playing – and winning – high-profile home games when it was in the ACC.
”I don’t think (the experience) really carries over,” coach Mark Turgeon said. ”Obviously, we’re confident at home. But it should be an electric atmosphere and all that, it should be a fun night.”
It just might be the conference game of the regular season. The key, Turgeon said, is for the squad led by guards Melo Trimble and Dez Wells to get more contributions from the frontcourt. Containing Wisconsin’s frontcourt trio of Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes will be crucial for the Terps.
”Yeah this is a different animal here,” Turgeon said. ”These guys have legitimate big guys.”
That frontcourt – and especially Kaminsky – has helped make Wisconsin a top contender to return to the Final Four. The Badgers have matched the best 27-game start in school history that was first set in 2006-07, while the 13-1 start in the Big Ten is also a first for the program. Wisconsin’s 10-game conference winning streak is the school’s longest since an 11-game stretch in 1940-41.
And the Badgers have won of late without veteran point guard Traevon Jackson. The senior said recently that he planned to return from right foot surgery for the home finale against Michigan State.
Ryan was less committal Monday. He declined to speculate on Jackson’s return, insisting he had not been given a timetable.
”Our medical staff will determine when he’s ready,” Ryan told reporters in Madison. ”They’re looking out for him (and) want him to be able to live a healthy life.”
Sophomore Bronson Koenig has played well starting for Jackson. Ryan plans to monitor Jackson – whenever he is cleared to practice – before determining how to use his point guards.
”We’ll massage our minutes,” Ryan said.
Wisconsin has given up 55 or fewer points seven times during its 10-game win streak. The Badgers defeated the Golden Gophers 63-53 on Saturday for their 10th straight home victory.
They’ll be facing a Maryland team that’s well rested after a 69-65 victory over Nebraska on Thursday. Trimble scored 26 points on 7-for-9 shooting and 10 of 11 from the free-throw line. He also led the Terps with six rebounds and five assists.
”Melo was terrific down the stretch,” Turgeon said. ”The kid’s just a winner. I’ve been saying that since we got him. It sure is nice to have him, I’ll tell you that.”
Averaging 16.1 points, the freshman has scored 21.0 over his last four games.
Wisconsin has won the last two matchups with Maryland, the most recent coming in November 2009.