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Ohio State and Wisconsin now a rivalry to respect. Deal with it.

3-4-2011 6-29-31 PM

When Wisconsin knocked off then-unbeaten and No. 1 Ohio State back on Feb. 12, it should’ve been a story that stood on its own.

The Badgers overcame a 15-point second-half deficit behind the absurd play of point guard Jordan Taylor. He scored 21 of his 27 points in a 13-minute stretch, leading the Badgers to a 71-67 win that prompted a court storming from the wild home crowd.

And then came the spit. Allegedly.

Ohio State freshman center Jared Sullinger said afterward that one of the students spit on him during the court storm, which prompted more than a few denials the following days from Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan. He said none of the Kohl Center’s video showed a student spitting.

“All I know is we won the game. Deal with it,” he said.

When the two teams meet again on Sunday, Ryan’s going to be staring at those words. A lot.

“Deal With It” is printed on 1,400 towels that’ll be handled out to students for Sunday’s regular-season finale. Expect the Buckeyes crowd to be raucous and ready for revenge.

That’s just one of the reasons why Ohio State-Wisconsin is more than just a Big Ten game, it’s actually a budding rivalry, writes Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. To sum up from his excellent story

The games are incredibly competitive right now (unlike other long-standing rivalries such as Indiana-Purdue that are one-sides of late), they’re significant (the Buckeyes and Badgers are always in the Big Ten title hunt, whether it’s basketball or football), both teams have definitive identities and there’s an off-the-field spark. Like the spitting incident.

“The way [Ryan] said it really riled us up,” OSU sophomore Tim Collins, an Avon native and the director of The Nuthouse, told the paper. “No matter what sport it is, they’ve been a little cocky about it, and we’re ready to knock them down a peg.”

Sounds like a plan. Just one thing – can we avoid any spitting?

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.