Chicago, IL – The windy city was the host to the March Madness Big Ten Tournament Championship, inter-conference match-ups and March Madness early rounds for one of, if not -the- toughest and most closely competed conferences in the country. The Big Ten swells this year with near half of its teams ranked in the top 25. Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Minnesota are all expected to go deep into the March Madness Tournament.
Early conference level eliminations and seeding for the Madness continued as two fast- paced teams with daunting defenses, the nationally ranked number 10 Ohio State Buckeyes faced-off against the number 22 Wisconsin Badgers in hopes of staying on the road to the Final Four, possibly the NCAA Basketball Championship, or at least to continue further on in the March Madness tourney. Rankings here are from the game current AP Top 25 Poll, both teams drop one place lower in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
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At this point in the madness, the better teams are playing as much for friendly or neutral location as well as seeding. A powerhouse team such as Big Ten regular season champion University of Indiana has a much friendlier environment to play in at Indianapolis for regional finals – as opposed to a hostile Dayton or Kansas City venue for the second and third rounds. As this game was being played, most teams did not yet know where their next game would be played as this was selection day in the NCAA, where teams would find out just which next tournament bracket that they would fall into.
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This selection is complex and is done by committee. It takes teams through a more than usually grueling schedule, level of play, obviously higher level of competition and travel.
This, one of many highlights and two games from the March Madness tourney aired on CBS St Patrick’s Day, March 17. The network will continue through to the Final Four, on to the semi-finals and the NCAA Championship Game in Atlanta
Wisconsin Badger forward Ryan Evans was strong in the paint and put a curling baby hook in the net at just over 3 minutes remaining in the half.
Ohio State Buckeye forward Deshaun Thomas drove into the paint from near half-court to make the scooping underhand, left-handed, lay-up to go up 24- 17 at almost exactly 3 minutes remaining in the half and later tipped the rebound in flat-footed to put the Buckeyes close at 24 – 19 to the Wisconsin lead.
Wisconsin only made two 3 pointers in the first half, but still went into the locker room on top, yet close at 24 – 19.
The lead bounced back and forth after the half when Buckeye Aaron Craft drove in with the left hand over the taller Badger forward Evans to put the Buckeyes up 34 – 33 and added the converted foul shot.
The two closely battling teams would go into the first time-out tied at 35 all, at around 1120 remaining in the half.
Defense was steady, high pressured, persistent and so tight on both sides that lead changes through the entire game thus far took the two teams into the next time-out tied again, this time at 37. Ohio State played man to man defense through much of the half.
The two teams were so evenly matched that the lead bounced back and forth with never more than a two point difference until just over five minutes remaining when guard Aaron Craft drove the length of the court off the turnover and laid it in with the right hand off the left side of the glass with a reverse spinning lay-up to put the Buckeyes up 43 -41 with 5 minutes and near 20 seconds to go.
Craft drove down again for the lay-up – this time against Badger Traevon Jackson to go up 43 – 41, coming right to 5 minutes remaining.
Buckeye forward La Quinton Ross came right back for the Buckeyes to go up by two for the first time in a while at 45 – 41, to make 4 points the largest lead thus far in the second half.
Ross then came down to the baseline with a spinning reverse dunk of his own to put the Buckeyes up 47 – 41 at 2:27 remaining. Maybe the two guns Ross and Craft practice this move together.
The Badgers Traevon Jackson hit two free throws to come up to 47 – 43, Buckeyes holding.
The Buckeyes’ Thomas hit two free throws with 44 seconds left, he was intentionally fouled by the Badgers on the next play and sank one free throw to make it 50.
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This Big Ten game remained a close defensive battle and the Ohio State Buckeyes closed it out by just holding the ball and counting it down, holding back the celebration, and holding the ball in the front-court from 12:00 seconds – then counting down and winning at 50 – 43. Deshaun Thomas finished with 17 points and 7 rebounds in another close Big Ten game, with strong defense on both sides. Ohio State’s last loss was to Wisconsin one month earlier. Ohio State will play 15th seed Ionia at Dayton, OH, in the next round. The University of Wisconsin will play Ole Miss in the Kansas City venue.