Badgers in Big Ten mix

first_imgJEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photoThis iswhere they wanted to be. Wisconsin’swin over Illinois Wednesday night vaulted the Badgers back into a tie withPurdue atop the conference standings, which places them one half-game ahead ofIndiana.With justfour games left in the regular season, the Badgers control their own destiny inthe race for the Big Ten championship. Four more wins, and UW (22-4, 12-2 BigTen) will lay claim to its first regular season conference title since 2003.“Yeah,we would like to get a piece of the conference championship,” Wisconsinhead coach Bo Ryan said. “We’ve said that since the first day we were onthe job. Compete for it, and let’s see what happens.”Whatappears likely to happen is a dramatic final two weeks of the regular season,with Wisconsin, Purdue and Indiana all looking to avoid a costly loss and earna share of the Big Ten hardware.“We’recollege basketball fans. We know what’s going on in the Big Ten rightnow,” forward Joe Krabbenhoft said. “We know we’re in a good positionto have some fun here at the end of the year.”As allthree teams currently have two league losses, a split championship is wellwithin the realm of possibilities.Makingmatters more tricky is that each team has swept another this season, meaningthere is no easy tiebreaker to determine seeding for the Big Ten tournament inthe event of a three-way tie.If thatwere to be the case, Purdue would earn the No. 1 overall seed in the conferencetournament, thanks to holding the best record against the other two teamscombined (2-1). Wisconsin would take the second seed with a 2-2 mark, andIndiana would be ranked third.Thetiebreakers are only used to determine seeds for the Big Ten tournament,however. According to league rules, all teams tied for first place at the endof the season will earn a share of the conference title, including a conferencechampionship trophy and rings.And whilethat may end up happening, after having played all three teams twice, Illinoishead coach Bruce Weber thinks Wisconsin and Purdue have separated themselvesfrom Indiana.“Tome it seems ? Wisconsin and Purdue are the two best teams,” Illinois headcoach Bruce Weber said. “Obviously Indiana has something to say aboutthat, but we’ve been able to play Indiana much closer.”Ryan andthe Badgers are no strangers to tight races for the Big Ten title or sharedconference championships. In 2002 ?Ryan’s first year as head coach at UW ? the Badgers shared the conference crownwith Indiana and Illinois with an 11-5 conference record after surprising justabout everyone by winning their final six games of the season.One yearago in a battle of the nation’s top two teams, Wisconsin saw its Big Tenchampionship hopes dashed in the Value City Arena as Ohio State clinched thetitle on a Mike Conley Jr. floater in the lane with 3.9 seconds left in thegame. To keepthemselves at the top of the standings, the Badgers will need to avoid asimilar fate this Sunday against the Buckeyes.Ohio State(17-9, 8-5) will be looking for another signature win to secure its place as anat-large selection to the NCAA tournament field and is not likely to simplyroll over for Wisconsin.“It’sthe Big Ten; it’s a pretty good league,” Ryan said. “There are someteams that are trying to make some things happen.”OSU bigman Kosta Koufos (13.8 points, 7.0 rebounds) has matured as his freshman seasonhas gone on and will need to be checked by the Badgers? interior defense.The onlyother Buckeye averaging double-digits in scoring is guard Jamar Butler. Theoffense flows around Butler, a senior, who leads OSU in scoring with a 14.2points-per-game average and leads the Big Ten in assists with nearly seven agame.The game,which can be seen at 3 p.m. on CBS, is the only regular season meeting betweenthe two teams. ?last_img

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