Defense sets tone for Buckeyes, Badgers

Defense takes center stage on Saturday when the Ohio State Buckeyes and Wisconsin Badgers face off in Madison, Wis., (2 ET on ESPN) with first place in the Big Ten on the line. The Buckeyes and Badgers rank first and second, respectively, in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com, and both rank among the top 25 teams nationally in field goal percentage allowed. Points will certainly be at a premium: nine of the combined 45 opponents this season for Wisconsin and Ohio State have scored better than the national average of one point per possession. When Ohio State Has the Ball Jared Sullinger is one of the most dominant big men in the country. Nearly half of his possessions result in a post-up play, and he has the second-best points per play average when posting up in the Big Ten (minimum 25 plays).

Jared Sullinger vs Jared Berggren Post-up Plays This Season

However, he had one of his worst games in the post Sunday against Michigan, a team that started four guards and no player taller than 6 feet, 8 inches. Sullinger made just 1-of-5 shots and scored only four points on seven post-up plays in the Buckeyes' 15-point win. Sullinger will be challenged to bounce back when he faces a physical Wisconsin frontcourt led by Jared Berggren, who has flourished as the team's defensive stopper in the paint. He’s allowed 0.58 points per play as an on-ball defender, the best rate among Big Ten players at least 6 feet 10 inches tall (minimum 100 minutes played). He ranks fourth in block percentage in the Big Ten, and opponents are averaging less than half a point per play on 21 percent shooting when posting up against Berggren. Cody Zeller and Tyler Zeller, arguably two of the best centers in the nation, were a combined 1-for-6 in their matchups with Berggren. When Wisconsin Has the Ball Jordan Taylor got off to a slow start this season, averaging just 12 points per game during the Badgers’ nonconference slate. In conference play, Jordan has increased his scoring by nearly five points per game.

Jordan Taylor Isolation Plays This Season

Taylor’s much-improved play in isolation has fueled this recent surge. He’s averaged one point per play or better in isolation in six of his 10 conference games, after doing so in just five of 13 nonconference games. Taylor will face one of the toughest on-ball perimeter defenders in the league with Aaron Craft likely to match up against the Badgers' senior point guard. Craft has the highest steal percentage in the Big Ten, and has allowed his opponent to score 0.67 points per play this season. Craft’s aggressive play defending in isolation has created turnovers on nearly one of every three such plays. His ball-hawking tactics might not be enough to contain Taylor, however, who has turned the ball over at a rate of fewer than once every 17 isolation plays this season.