INDIANAPOLIS -- Ohio State and Penn State co-star in the Big Ten tournament title game Sunday. The working subtitle: Nothing in Common.
Ohio State has owned this event. The Buckeyes are playing in their third consecutive Big Ten championship game, won it last season and have won the title three times in its 13-year history.
This event has owned Penn State. Until this season, the Nittany Lions had never made the tourney final, much less won the thing.
“Knowing we’re in the championship is pretty cool,” senior guard Talor Battle said. “I’ve never even made it past Friday before, and now we’re playing on Sunday.”
Ohio State coach Thad Matta loves the tourney. His record in it is 13-4.
Penn State coach Ed DeChellis has endured annual heartburn in the tourney. His record in it is 5-7.
The Buckeyes are led by the freshman in the middle, 280-pound center Jared Sullinger.
The Nittany Lions are led by the senior on the perimeter, 170-pound guard Battle.
The Buckeyes have nothing left to prove to the NCAA tournament selection committee. They’ll be a No. 1 seed, and either they or Kansas figures to be the overall No. 1.
The Nittany Lions may still have a little lingering doubt about their standing with the committee. If they get in, it won’t be by much.
But even with the potential difference in motivation between the two teams, both sides say they really want to win Sunday.
“We’ve heard a lot of talk about how this wasn’t a big deal for Ohio State,” said Buckeyes guard Jon Diebler. “We didn’t listen to that. This is something personally we’d like to win.”
After a month of life on the bubble, Penn State would love to earn an automatic bid instead of sweating for the rest of the day.
Said Battle: “I can tell you one thing: if we win tomorrow, we’re in.”