Sunday’s game against Wisconsin is essentially meaningless for the Ohio State men’s basketball team.
Fans expect a national title, and a win will not improve their chances nor will a loss derail them, yet there is growing discontent between the two programs.
In football, the Badgers are the Buckeyes’ little brothers. They win a few pickup games in the driveway, and they think they’re ready to step into big brother’s shoes.
OSU safety Jermale Hines said it most eloquently via Twitter after Wisconsin’s basketball squad beat No. 1, previously undefeated OSU on Feb. 12.
“I’m tired of announcers saying they done it again, I lost one time to Wisconson (sic) sorry ass. #pissed,” he wrote.
In his four years at OSU, Hines lost once to Wisconsin. Plus, he has at least a share of a Big Ten title to show for each of his four years.
Not exactly rivals in football, but Hines going out of his way to write something about Wisconsin on Twitter means something.
In basketball, however, it’s a different story.
OSU basketball coach Thad Matta and Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan have won two Big Ten Tournament titles and three Big Ten regular-season titles apiece.
But what Matta doesn’t have on Ryan is Ryan’s numerous “Grinch look-alike contest” victories. Incidentally, Matta is only 5-9 against Wisconsin since he came to OSU in 2004.
Matta has had at least two memorable games to show for the short-lived rivalry. In 2007, after Badger center Brian Butch saw his elbow flop around in its socket, point guard Mike Conley Jr. made his most memorable shot in his one year at OSU, leading the No. 1 Buckeyes past No. 2 Wisconsin, 49-48, in Columbus.
Badger fans will find this year’s 71-67 win against No. 1 OSU to be memorable. After all, they got to spit in OSU freshman forward Jared Sullinger’s face for no apparent reason (allegedly).
There’s also a contrast of styles for the two schools. Matta’s squad can play at any pace. Wisconsin, at its best, runs pick-and-pop plays all day.
Though Ohioans don’t protest quite like Wisconsinites, and can’t drink or eat like them, I know Sunday will show an OSU crowd can be as hostile as Wisconsin’s.
If the Buckeyes win and the Schottenstein Center contingent happens to be disrespectful to the opposition, well, that’s just a part of the rivalry. As the old sage Ryan said, “Deal with it.”