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Published: Tuesday, 2/20/2007

Another showdown in Columbus


Get ready for another No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown in the Big Ten - this time on the hardwood.

Wisconsin was the new No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll yesterday and Big Ten rival Ohio State was not far behind at No. 2.

In fact, the Buckeyes are No. 1, but it's at the top of the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll, followed by the Badgers.

The Badgers (26-2, 12-1), on top of the poll for the first time in school history, will play the Buckeyes (24-3, 12-1) in Columbus Sunday afternoon - just a bit more than three months after Ohio State and Michigan played a much-hyped No. 1 vs. No. 2 football game at Ohio Stadium.

Florida's 83-70 loss at Vanderbilt on Saturday snapped the Gators' 17-game winning streak and dropped them from the top spot in the media poll for the second time this season.

Wisconsin, which was No. 3 last week, leapfrogged second-ranked Ohio State to become the fourth No. 1 team this season, and 52nd different school to hold the top spot in the history of the AP poll.

For the Badgers and coach Bo Ryan, there's not much time to celebrate their new lofty status, not with a game at Michigan State tonight.

So Ryan held his own 60-second celebration at home, with a big foam "We're No. 1" finger he took from his kids, a party favor and a handful of paper torn into confetti.

"I ran around with the foam finger, blowing the horn and throwing the confetti for about a minute," Ryan said with a laugh.

Ohio State coach Thad Matta said his team is focused on tomorrow's home game against Penn State.

"As a program, we feel fortunate to be recognized in this manner by the basketball community," he said in a statement. "Our players have worked hard to get to this point, but we know Wednesday's game is important for us in the conference standings.

"Our focus right now is to continue to improve as a team and prepare for our game with Penn State."

The Badgers received 35 first-place votes and 1,747 points. Ohio State got 31 first-place votes and 1,728 points.

For the Big Ten, it's the second time the league best known for its football has had the top two teams in the AP basketball poll. Michigan was No. 1 and Indiana No. 2 on Nov. 30, 1992.

The Badgers and Buckeyes not only will be playing for the No. 1 ranking Sunday, but also for the inside track to a Big Ten regular-season title.

Alando Tucker, who has seven consecutive 20-point games and is a leading candidate for national player of the year, and the Badgers defeated Ohio State 72-69 last month in Madison.

"If there is a player who was ever responsible for his team being ranked No. 1, it's Alando Tucker," Ryan said. "If there is an MVP, it's him."

The Badgers started the season ranked ninth, dipped to 12th and have been on the rise ever since. An experienced team that starts three seniors and two juniors, Wisconsin already has set a school record for victories in a season.

"It's not a bunch of McDonald's All-Americans and five-star recruits," Ryan said. "It's a bunch of guys who paid their dues. This year has been the culmination of a lot of hard work."

The Buckeyes have been in the top 10 all season thanks to one of the best freshmen classes in the country.

Seven-footer Greg Oden leads the team in scoring (15.5) and rebounding (9.5) and is shooting 61 percent from the field with 71 blocked shots in 20 games. Fellow freshmen Mike Conley Jr. (10.1) and Daequan Cook (11.9) combine to average 22 points per game.

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