CHICAGO - The distinction of playing the top-seeded team in a tournament after a first-round victory is not what most No. 8-seeded teams cherish.
Such is the case with Ohio State, but there doesn't appear to be any indication among the Buckeyes that they will be overmatched today when they play Big Ten regular-season champion Wisconsin at noon in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament at the United Center.
The Buckeyes feel they should have beaten the Badgers in the only meeting of the season between the two teams last January in Columbus.
Wisconsin won 53-52 on a basket by senior guard Kirk Penny with 7.4 seconds remaining.
“I think it's a good matchup for us,” said Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien. “We're going to let this game [a 66-64 win over Iowa yesterday] go and start to prepare for Wisconsin. They're a very good team. We thought we played very well against them. I thought we had a chance to beat them.”
Ohio State senior guard Brent Darby recalled the matchup with Wisconsin with far less fervor.
“I think we were tired and we were dragging throughout the [Wisconsin] game,” he said. “We played poorly for about 35 minutes. We didn't come with the energy we needed. The last five minutes we turned it up a little bit and played like I know we're capable of playing. We made a run and went ahead by one point before Penny made a great move to score.”
Darby then tried to win the game on the ensuing possession, but his shot was blocked by the Badgers' Alondo Tucker at the buzzer.
The Buckeyes trailed by 11 points with about five minutes left in the game, but took a 52-51 lead with 37 seconds to play.
Dave Mader, the Badgers' 6-11 junior center, fractured a bone in his right hand during practice Tuesday and will miss the rest of the season, school officials say. He averaged 2.6 points and 2.2 rebounds in 9.4 minutes per game.
The Big Ten tournament is not new to Michigan, but it's new to seven players on its roster - junior Colin Dill, sophomore walk-on Chris Aguwa and freshmen Lester Abram, Graham Brown, Sherrod Harrell, Daniel Horton and Chris Hunter.
The third-seeded Wolverines will play sixth-seeded Indiana, a 77-49 winner over Penn State last night.
“All coaches would want their teams to play with a hunger and desperation and passion,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “We also want to have some fun. I don't want to lose sight of that with our team.''
UM (17-12, 10-6) finished in a three-way tie for third during the regular season with Purdue and Michigan State, but the Wolverines have lost three of their last four games.
In their only game against Indiana this season, the Wolverines lost 63-49 in Bloomington last month.
“Our players know what's at stake, and they know this is the last portion of our season,” Amaker said. “It's the first time they've been involved in a segment of our season where there is no tomorrow. We'll see how we get prepared for that situation.”
If UM should win the tournament, there will be no tomorrow with the school under self-imposed restrictions that include no post-season tournament play beyond the Big Ten Tournament.