Cody Cousino / Photo editor
Ohio State men’s basketball has just three dates remaining on its regular season schedule, and each contest will likely be significant to the Buckeyes and their opponents as far as the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments are concerned.
OSU’s mad dash to March continues on Sunday against Wisconsin when the No. 8 Buckeyes (23-5, 11-4 Big Ten) will close out the home portion of the 2011-12 season against the No. 16 Badgers (20-8, 9-6 Big Ten).
It could seem to some fans that OSU and Wisconsin have already secured their tickets to the NCAA Tournament, but one could also argue that Wisconsin is in need of a quality win.
During a Thursday game in Iowa City, Iowa, the Badgers dropped a 67-66 decision to an unranked Iowa team with 13 losses. That result could impact Wisconsin’s seed in either the Big Ten or NCAA Tournament.
Nothing a road win against OSU wouldn’t fix, though.
Senior guard William Buford will be on call for OSU to help make sure OSU isn’t used as the Badgers’ springboard into the postseason.
Buford will play his final game at the Schottenstein Center Sunday, and a productive outing from OSU’s lone senior could make it a game to remember for him, his teammates and fans.
Averaging 15 points per game, Buford is OSU’s No. 2 scorer behind sophomore forward Jared Sullinger.
Despite a senior campaign that has been considered inconsistent by pundits and fans, Buford still has the backing of OSU coach Thad Matta, who said Friday he hopes that the guard goes down as one of the best in Buckeyes history.
“You look at all the — what’s he’s been a part of in his time here, the great players that he’s played with and really the impact he’s had on our younger guys… he’s been a rock,” Matta said.
Buford said he feels like his time at OSU flew by.
“I’m going to miss everybody,” Buford said. “The fans and everybody, the school atmosphere, but most importantly, my teammates and my coaches. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Considering Buford’s last game against Wisconsin, fans have every reason to expect a clutch performance from the senior as the curtain begins to fall on his OSU career.
With OSU leading, 51-50, with 2:27 to play in regulation, Buford, who finished the afternoon with 11 points, hit a 3-pointer to put the Buckeyes up by four points. Wisconsin wouldn’t recover from Buford’s basket — the 400th field goal of the player’s career.
OSU went on to win, 58-52, and clinched the program’s first win in Madison, Wis., since January 2000.
Tipoff for the next installment of OSU versus Wisconsin on Sunday is set for 4 p.m. The game will be broadcast on CBS.