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Saturday reignites UW’s best rivalry

first_imgConsider it a symptom of Impending Graduationitis or whatever you want, but a stark reality faces University of Wisconsin seniors this weekend.With the men’s hockey team stuck in ninth place in the WCHA, the responsibility for those truly spectacular, intoxicating moments that power the Kohl Center falls to the hardwood. Men’s basketball, as you many know, hosts the Buckeyes from The Ohio State University, and that’s a team that isn’t really liked around here – or anywhere else outside of Columbus, Ohio, for that matter.The last time the Buckeyes invaded the Kohl Center was Feb. 12, four months after John Clay and the Wisconsin Football Badgers ran Ohio State out of Camp Randall Stadium in a 31-18 victory. OSU was the country’s No. 1 team entering that weekend, and they were a perfect 6-0 before thousands of Badger faithful Jumped Around on them.More relevant, of course, is what transpired in the Kohl Center that February afternoon. Ohio State, again, was the nation’s top team. Again, they were also undefeated. This time, it was much farther into the season, and the Buckeyes had collected 24 straight wins.You remember what happened over the course of that game. A tight first half ended with a 2-point Ohio State lead. Then, Jordan Taylor and 21 second-half points happened. Then, despite trailing by as many as 15 points, despite battling a Buckeye squad shooting above 50 percent from the field, the Badgers won.Then, the floodgates opened for the student section, and Taylor, Jon Leuer and a whole bunch of Badgers were hoisted up off the ground and into Wisconsin lore.“It’s something that you’ll probably just remember forever,” Taylor said Thursday afternoon.He added to that by detailing the pleasantry of defeating the No. 1 team on your home court – and then stated that it has “zero impact” on this weekend’s game.Of course, the Buckeyes got a second chance with the Badgers last season on their home court. They made the most of it in a 93-65 trouncing of Wisconsin, a picking apart proverbial bone by proverbial bone. Jon Diebler rained fire from the skies, sinking seven of his eight 3-point attempts, while Ohio State collectively shot 68 percent from the floor and 93 percent from behind the arc.Taylor, as he’d be the first to recall, scored just eight points on 2-for-9 shooting in a full 40 minutes of playing time.That’s a very large reason why last year is meaningless now, but it’s not the largest.Simply put, a Wisconsin victory this weekend could propel the Badgers into first place in the Big Ten, just three weeks after a three-game losing streak brought doom and gloom clouds so thick that you’d think Bo Ryan’s pixie dust – the stock reserved for pulling his team into the NCAA tournament year in and year out – had been spoiled.But for sentiment’s sake, let’s expound on the rivalry talk. No matter how much Minnesota is perceived to be on the “upswing,” how long will it take until we see anything close to what Wisconsin-Ohio State has brought us? Minnesota hasn’t touched Paul Bunyan’s Axe since 2003, and in the past two years they’ve been outscored by a combined 47 points.Where else should we look? Iowa, a football rivalry at most, now lies opposite Wisconsin in the Big Ten’s Legends Division. So does Michigan, the second-most obnoxious team in the Big Ten, as well as newcomer Nebraska. In the Badgers’ Leaders Division, Penn State remains an awfully enormous question mark, while Purdue, Illinois and Indiana really pose zero semblance of anything close to a legitimate rival.That leaves Ohio State and Michigan State, and boy, those Spartans come pretty close. After all, they supplied the first Hail Mary Heartbreaker Wisconsin fans suffered this season, back in Spartan Stadium Oct. 22. The Badgers ultimately reaped sweet revenge in the Big Ten Championship Game in an absolute thriller that once again denied those bitter Spartans a BCS bowl berth, and you can bet this upcoming season’s matchup (an eerily timed Oct. 27) will be certified must-watch material.But who really makes your blood boil? Yes, Michigan State games seem to be developing a penchant for delivering truly remarkable drama and all-time classic moments, but who do you like beating the most? The Spartans have that indisputably vile bluster, but make no mistake – they’re second-fiddle rivals to the Buckeyes.Whether you’re a senior scratching off your last days in Madison on your bedroom wall or an underclassmen who’s still been unbelievably spoiled (in a truly fantastic way) by Wisconsin athletics these past two or three seasons, savor this Ohio State game this weekend.The players won’t say as much, but knowing what happened last year and even more so what can happen this year with sustained success, they sure will be as well.Mike is a senior majoring in journalism. Are you planning on packing the Kohl Center this weekend? Let him know on Twitter @mikefiammetta.last_img

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