...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
3/15/2014 – Michigan 72, Ohio State 69 – 25-7, 15-3 Big Ten, BTT Finalists
Sometimes when you're on. Good lord man. This team is capable of sending anyone watching into a fit of giggles as shot after shot splashes down. The general process:
- All right, here we go.
- ON FIAH!
- /giggling fit
As Michigan extended to a 16-point lead early despite Ohio State doing offensive things that are well out of character (IE: making shots), it was giggle fit time. Michigan has previously done this to Nebraska and Illinois in the process of running them out of the building. If they're fortunate enough to make a tourney run at least one win will be reminiscent of the Florida game last year, wherein there is a period of death from above that leaves the other team looking like Dresden.
Welp. I don't know, man. Michigan's defense looked pretty good to me in the mirror universe where Shannon Scott remains Shannon Scott. Scott entered the game a 28% three point shooter and a 38% shooter on two point jumpers. He got zero looks at the rim and yet exited with 18 points on ten shots. Yeah, most of his jumpers were not particularly contested, but there's a reason for that. When Scott elevates for a jumper you have just done a good job as a defense.
The other problem with the defense was a problem with the offense. Steve Kerr mentioned that all of Michigan's seven first half turnovers were live-ball situations. Live-ball turnovers lead to transition, and transition leads to sadness. Michigan failed to push the margin out to crippling levels because of uncharacteristic sloppiness when Ohio State turned up the pressure.
Other than that, the defense did what it wanted to do: protect the rim and live with whatever else happens. OSU just hit shots they usually don't.
Hidden in the terror is a comfortable-ish win. Michigan was 10/19 from the line, well below their season average. Jordan Morgan was the biggest part of that, as he went 2/7. That dropped his season total from 62% to 57%.
Craft. When Craft does something Crafty and wins, there is a collective old white sportswriter dude explosion, and when he does something Crafty and loses, the OWSD collective sighs and shakes their head at a world full of haters. Forde is on it:
For all the many people who hate Aaron Craft, here’s your chance to pile on.
You’re a strange, sad lot. You’ve got issues. Ripping a guy with a 3.9 grade-point average who plays his guts out is a weirdly trendy thing to do for college basketball fans.
But for those disposed to do so, congrats. Today is Bash Aaron Craft Day.
I'm not here to bash Aaron Craft, but let's be clear: he is a role player. He is the apotheosis of the role player, sure, but the reason people get cranky about Aaron Craft is the never-ending hagiography for a guy who is merely a pretty good player.
There is frankly a racial component to this. You don't see people falling all over themselves to hype up Briante Weber, whose VCU team is ranked and headed for about the same seed as OSU thanks in large part to Weber's third consecutive year at the top of the Kenpom steals leaderboard. Or his teammate Shannon Scott, who is also top ten in steals. It's Craft that gets glorified as the underrated gutty gritty leader in a way that is out of proportion to his talent.
That's unfair to the his teammates and Craft himself. I've long defended the guy whenever people try to trash his game (no offense to Derrick Walton, but put Craft on this Michigan team and oh my gawd), but that's because I love guys who can make an impact without using possessions. They need to be put with high-usage guys, though—you know, stars. Craft is not that. But he comes with an avalanche of hype enough to get him on the midseason Wooden list as he leads his team to a 10-8 Big Ten record while taking 15% of OSU's shots.
At its heart, Craft backlash is Forde-and-company backlash. Some of it's misdirected; a lot of it is from 14 year olds; everyone would be much better off if people in the media would just acknowledge that Craft is who he is. GIFs of aairballs are prominent because the media is insistent on pretending Aaron Craft is something other than what he is.
Please be a new meme, please be a new meme, please be a new meme. We've had planking and Bradying and all sorts of ing ings, and now there needs to be an internet full of pictures of clothed people sitting in bathtubs looking hard.
YOU DON'T WANT THIS
Is Glenn On Fire Watch. Another efficient game with 11 points on 9 shot equivalents, and he brought defensive impact with a couple of blocks and three steals. He's still alarmingly light on rebounds.
There is the hint of a recovery in his three point shooting, as well. Over the last four games he's 5/13. Not much to go on for a guy who was at 32% last year and is at 28% this year, sure. Still another data point for those hoping Glenn is this year's tourney Mitch.
Is Stauskas Human Watch. NOPE.
I mean, he does that crossover to three pointer thing.
Death from above watch. Michigan's quest to end the season with five guys shooting 40% from three is very, very close. Walton is at .398, Spike at .390. LeVert has pulled himself a couple points above the line, sitting next to Irvin. Stauskas can't even see 40% unless he's got binoculars.
Seeding business. Most observers from Lunardi to the Bracket Matrix have moved Michigan to the one line after Wisconsin's Big Ten Tourney exit, and a lot of folks are speculating that Michigan may be locked in to that spot no matter what happens today.
Here’s my prediction: Michigan gets the fourth No. 1 seed today regardless of whether it wins or loses the Big Ten title game.
— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) March 16, 2014
Seems pretty easy for the committee to have a contingency plan based on the result of the championship game, but in past years it has seemed like they ignore or at least downplay Sunday results.
If Michigan does get that one seed they'll be in the East and acquire a Michigan-friendly Madison Square Garden. In that event I withdraw my Syracuse request, as they're one of the few schools that could overwhelm Michigan's NYC fanbase.
It's pointless to mention this when they're just going to unveil the brackets in a few hours but I started this sentence anyway so I will proceed by mentioning that I am not a huge fan of Lunardi's bracket, which features Oklahoma State as the eight seed, and greatly prefer the GW/Stanford setup presented by Palm.
Another motivation to get that one: Louisville has moved up to the three line on just about everyone's bracket, so a one can't draw the red hot 'Cards until a regional final.
SHON AND TOM
A short play in one act
Tom, a basketball coach
Shon, a television color commentator
SHON: "Yes. Yes, Tom. What is it Tom."
T: "I just had a thought Shon."
S: "What is that thought Tom."
T: "There are millions of planets and some of them have life, Shon. Inevitably some of these societies are millions of years more advanced than ours. They have not visited. There is no evidence of their existence. We dream of traveling the stars, but we cannot. Otherwise someone would have visited us.
"The reason we have not been visited by any of these societies is that it is simply not possible. Physics is a dead end, Shon."
S: "But what about when the sun…"
T: "All of this dies, Shon. We have an expiration date. Physics is a dead end."
S: "Physics is a dead end."
T: "I have a great sadness all about me, Shon. It overwhelms my being. It is as if we already do not exist."
|WHAT||Michigan (25-7, 15-3 B1G) vs. Michigan State (25-8, 12-6)|
|WHERE||Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana|
|WHEN||3:30 pm Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||Michigan -1 (KenPom)|
PBP: Kevin Harlan
Analysts: Greg Anthony/Steve Kerr
Right: Tom Izzo, in a rare moment of restraint. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Michigan can cap off the rare three-game season sweep of Michigan State with a win. Oh, right, and secure the Big Ten Tournament title and almost certainly the final one-seed in the Big Dance.
THE PREVIOUS MATCHUP
Michigan got a combined 63 points from Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert, and Glenn Robinson III, turned the ball over just three times, and played MSU even on the boards in a 79-70 win at Crisler. State played some weird guys because Brandon Dawson went Hulk-mode on a table. Caris went running. Keith Appling's wrist prevented him from properly contesting a series of Stauskas jumpers. Or something.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold:
|G||11||Keith Appling||Sr.||6'1, 185||71.5||22.5||110.6|
|Averaging 5.5 points over last 8 games with 33 assists and 21 turnovers|
|G||14||Gary Harris||So.||6'4, 210||72.8||26.1||113.7|
|High usage and high efficiency, great defender, should match up w/ Stauskas|
|G||45||Denzel Valentine||So.||6'5, 225||73.0||18.7||108.1|
|Point forward type, solid rebounder, error-prone, not a great shooter|
|F||22||Branden Dawson||Jr.||6'6, 225||47.9||19.1||119.8|
|Putback machine, also great on defensive boards, blocks shots, not a creator|
|F||5||Adreian Payne||Sr.||6'10, 245||53.9||26.8||111.6|
|Very effective near basket or outside, decent rebounder and shot-blocker|
|F||10||Matt Costello||So.||6'9, 240||35.3||13.9||126.6|
|Excellent shot-blocker and offensive rebounder, shoots 62% from field, foul-prone|
|G||20||Travis Trice||Jr.||6'0, 170||51.7||16.8||116.6|
|Excellent outside shooter, poor inside finisher, decent assist rate, not good at D|
|F||30||Kenny Kaminski||Fr.||6'8, 225||25.2||15.0||135.8|
|Pure stretch four gunner, great shooting numbers, tiny rebounding rates|
|G||3||Alvin Ellis||Fr.||6'4, 195||19.2||15.2||91.8|
|Role diminished since Appling's return, no points (0/3 FG) since February 20th|
Crap, I actually have to write this from scratch because the last one was all about Dawson's absence, Payne playing Michigan for the first time this season, and Appling's wrist.
Point guard Keith Appling has played a lot of minutes since returning from his wrist injury eight games ago, but his production hasn't been there—he's averaging 5.5 points per game in that span on 16/28 two-point and 2/9 three-point shooting. While he's willing to attack the rim—and still pretty effective in that regard—he hasn't shown much confidence in his outside shot. The opposite goes for his backup, Travis Trice, a 45% three-point shooter who hits just 38% of his attempts inside the arc. Appling is the superior defender; Trice is doing a better job of taking care of the ball of late.
Gary Harris is really good at basketball. You know this. While he hasn't had a huge game in the BTT, he's still been quite efficient, and he's also MSU's best perimeter defender. After what Stauskas did to Appling the last time out, Harris should match up with him for most of this game.
The proverbial wild card is Denzel Valentine, who does a little bit of everything as a 6'5" small forward who can also run the point. That includes a new-found outside shot (37% 3-pt) and a surprising number of defensive rebounds; it also includes Izzo-aneurysm-inducing turnovers. His versatility allows MSU to play small if they want—when they need shooting, they'll put out a lineup with him at the four.
For the first time this season, Michigan will face both Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne. Dawson is a beast on the boards, generating the majority of his offense on putback opportunities or open looks created by his teammates. Payne is equally threatening on the block or beyond the arc, though he's been inconsistent since returning from a foot injury that cost him seven games. Payne scored five points on 2/8 shooting with six rebounds in their quarterfinal win over Northwestern, then bounced back today with 18 points on 7/10 shooting—albeit with just four boards—against Wisconsin. His conditioning seems to be an issue.
Matt Costello provides shot-blocking and solid finishing at the rim off the bench. If MSU wants more of an outside shooting threat at the four, they'll bring Kenny Kaminski—35/71 on threes this season—into the game instead. Gavin Schilling is liable to play a few minutes and commit a few fouls—he had four in eight minutes(!) against the Badgers. Alvin Ellis sees spot minutes at guard; he's been a non-factor for the last month.
After losing to Michigan at Crisler, State closed out the regular season with a seven-point loss at home to Illinois, a ten-point home defeat of a reeling Iowa squad, and a two-point loss at Ohio State.
Michigan State is first in the conference in three-point shooting while taking the fourth-most attempts. This is real life. They're also a strong offensive rebounding team with Dawson back in the lineup. Turnovers are an issue for them, however, and they don't get to the line much at all.
The Spartan defense is giving up lots of three-point attempts themselves and seeing a solid chunk (36.3%) of those go in. What separates them from Michigan, though, is impressive defense inside the arc, ranking second in the league in 2P% against and first in block rate. They are very foul prone, though striking a balance between attacking their bigs and generating two-point looks that don't rely on bailout calls can be difficult.
Dare Appling to shoot. The biggest defensive adjustment for Michigan in their win over Ohio State was bringing a hard double-team onto LaQuinton Ross whenever he got the ball; they were able to do this because Aaron Craft can't shoot. Appling has been Craft-esque from beyond the arc—both in percentage and willingness to fire—since his injury. If Michigan can get away with sagging off of him while giving extra attention to Harris, they should do it.
Keep the rebounding close. Michigan managed to win the rebounding battle in the first matchup and keep it even in the second, though as every State fan/television announcer will tell you, they haven't had to face both Dawson and Payne yet. I don't expect Michigan to crash the offensive glass much at all; they're going to need some help from the perimeter players on the defensive boards to get this done.
Win the turnover battle. Here's how Michigan can make up for any extra possessions MSU generates with their rebounding: take care of the dang ball. They're much better at this than the Spartans on the average day, though they got a little sloppy today against the Buckeyes (admittedly, a better turnover-forcing squad than MSU). In a game that should be close, the Wolverines can't afford to waste possessions and give up easy buckets on the other end.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 1
It was hilarious. Then it was gut-wrenching. Then it was hilarious again.
Michigan came out swinging against Ohio State, jumping out to a 32-16 lead with a shooting display reminiscent of the game at Illinois—the Wolverines shot 8-for-13 from beyond the arc in the first half. Where the Illini folded, however, the Buckeyes fought back, cutting the 16-point Michigan lead down to four by halftime.
Once again, the Wolverines landed early blows, hitting their first three attempts from downtown in the second half to extend the margin to 12. Once again, Ohio State recovered, this time clawing their way to the lead on an alley-oop slam by Sam Thompson with eight minutes to play.
Background image via Dustin Johnston/UMHoops
From there, the teams traded blows. Jordan Morgan tied the game by splitting a pair of free throws, then Caris LeVert hit a triple that Shannon Scott immediately answered. LeVert split free throws, LaQuinton Ross came back with a layup. A Nik Stauskas pullup jumper followed a Sam Thompson putback. With 2:55 left, two Glenn Robinson III free throws gave Michigan a one-point lead.
Until this point, Aaron Craft, saddled with four fouls, had spent much of the second half on the Ohio State bench. He re-entered the game and immediately picked up a questionable call on Jordan Morgan, the fourth on the Wolverines center. Craft missed both ensuing free throws, however, and Stauskas gave Michigan a three-point lead with a gorgeous up-and-under layup after Craft gambled for a steal.
After the bitter rivals traded misses, Ross brought the margin down to two with a free throw with 44 seconds left after Morgan fouled out. Thad Matta decided to have his team play defense instead of give a foul. That backfired when LeVert flew in from the corner to rebound a missed three from Stauskas as the shot clock expired, forcing OSU to foul Spike Albrecht with six seconds remaining.
Albrecht hit the first and missed the second. Despite having a foul to give, Michigan didn't stop Craft as he charged up the court. Craft rose for the potential tying triple, only to have the ball slip out of his hands. Angels sang, the internet let out a collective belly laugh, and somewhere a single tear fell from the eye of Dan Dakich.
Michigan, winners of their last three matchups with Ohio State, advances to tomorrow's Big Ten Tournament title game. The winner of Wisconsin/MSU awaits.
Primary computer is currently nonfunctional; operating at suboptimal levels while trying to convince a man that he needs to take my computer and fix it. Please bear with me.
3/14/2014 – Michigan 64, Illinois 63 – 24-7, 15-3 Big Ten, BTT semifinalist
The duality of man! [Dustin Johnston]
A good way to escape, I guess. The Illinois game existed in two phases: a man to man phase in which Michigan eventually ran out to a 13 point lead and a zone phase in which Michigan attempted zero(!) two point shots that just about cost them the game. Groce's inexplicable decision to return to a man to man phase on Michigan's last couple possessions was decisive.
It is difficult to overstate how completely Michigan failed to attack the Illinois zone. From the 14:47 mark to the Stauskas free throw against man D with 55 seconds left, Michigan attempted four free throws, zero two pointers, and 15 threes. Most of those were terrible contested looks, with occasional exceptions.
In the aftermath, a couple of people pinged me on twitter, saying that's why they didn't want Syracuse. (That was before Syracuse's yakety sax final possession against NC State.
I'd still take them.)
And, yeah, that was alarming. But the thing about the How To Shut Down Michigan book is that it works until it doesn't work. It was deny Stauskas on the wing until it wasn't possible, and then it was put a point guard on Stauskas until it wasn't. Michigan will work it out. A zone wake up call is a good thing to get right now, especially when you pull the game out anyway. Much better to get that out of the way before next week.
It looked to me like Illinois was overplaying the free throw line and was leaving corner threes open, but Michigan did not take advantage. There's only five guys and Michigan is really good at shooting; they'll work it out.
Meanwhile in that's over now. Stauskas was a FTA machine against their man coverage. He hit both his two point attempts and went 9/10 of the line, all on drives. Whenever Illinois attempted to put Abrams on Stauskas things went not well for them, and the instant Illinois went back to man, Stauskas got to the line an assisted on the decisive Jordan Morgan basket.
It's worth noting that Illinois's late season surge was based on superior man to man defense. In their 6-4 stretch at the end of the year they held all but one non-Michigan opponent under 1 PPP (Iowa got 1.1 in the season finale) and held a number way under. They had a four-game stretch in which opponents could not crest the 50-point mark, and those were all good teams: OSU, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Michigan State. They're up to 15th nationally on Kenpom.
As concerning as the zone ineptitude was, a second consecutive torching of a defense that has been giving the rest of the league fits was further proof that Michigan cannot be contained on offense.
Survive and advance. And if you were feeling kinda bad about what went down, last night provided a reassurance. Syracuse went down; Duke had a near-identical one-point escape against Clemson; St. Louis ate a last second three from St. Bonaventure; North Carolina got rebounded to death by Pitt. Conference tourneys are full of chaos.
Falling into place. With Kansas's loss to Iowa State, Michigan (probably) controls its own destiny in their attempt to lock down the final #1 seed. Beating OSU and Wisconsin/MSU would give them another pair of wins against tourney teams, and it seems like everyone currently putting Villanova on the #1 line is just waiting for someone to take it from them. Meanwhile, Duke and Louisville probably can't catch Michigan without an M loss—Lunardi already has Michigan the top two seed. '
Louisville keeps coming up in these discussions because they're annihilating folks in their conference tourney, but the Bracket Matrix has them a four—nowhere near the conversation.
About what the ideal is. Is it a big deal to get the last one seed instead of a non-Florida/Arizona #2 seed? Not at the hypothetical-regional-final-if-top-seeds-hold level, where you're probably facing down the same team you bumped. But, yeah, it is a big deal. The first, second, and third rounds all feature worse opponents, especially at the Sweet 16 level. There you're facing down a four seed 35% of the time and a five or worse the rest.
Big difference between a probable matchup against a near equal (current 3s: Iowa State, Virginia, Syracuse, Creighton) and a probable matchup against someone in the 5+ range. Current fives: OSU, UConn, Oklahoma, North Carolina.
What was that? Caris LeVert drew the primary defensive assignment on Tracy Abrams on the last play, which was drawn up with about four seconds left. LeVert got super aggressive on Abrams, got beat, and was fortunate not to watch his decision get Michigan beat.
When you consider what kind of player Abrams is, that decision looks even more baffling. Abrams is bad at all kinds of attempts to put the ball in the basket but he's really, really bad at jumpers. He was just 30% on two point jumpers this year and 28% on threes. If you sag off him a bit and then come up to contest when he takes the shot you know he has to take, you're probably looking at Abrams putting up a 20% shot instead of a… well probably not 60% since Abrams is an impressively bad scorer, but way too good of a look.
|WHAT||Michigan (24-7, 15-3 B1G) vs. Ohio State (25-8, 10-8)|
|WHERE||Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana|
|WHEN||1:40 pm Eastern, Saturday|
|LINE||Michigan -1 (KenPom)|
PBP: Jim Nantz
Analysts: Greg Anthony, Steve Kerr
Right: The Nebraska game proved stressful for Thad Matta. (via)
A spot in the Big Ten title game, obviously. Also, with Villanova losing to Seton Hall yesterday, Michigan has a chance to grab the final one-seed in the NCAA Tournament. While the Wolverines are the third two-seed (behind Kansas and Wisconsin) in the most recent Bracket Matrix update, the gap is narrowing. If Michigan advances further than Wisconsin in the conference tourney, they've got a shot, especially if Kansas goes down against Iowa State in the Big 12 semifinal (7 pm Friday night on ESPNU/WatchESPN).
THE LAST MATCHUP
Michigan played Ohio State once this season, coming away with a 70-60 win in Columbus despite digging themselves an early hole. The Wolverines won the game thanks to remarkable offensive balance; Nik Stauskas had 15 points, Derrick Walton 13, Zak Irvin 10, Caris LeVert and Glenn Robinson 9 apiece, Jon Horford 8, and Jordan Morgan 6. Oh, and this happened:
He just wins games.
THE LINEUP CARD
Probable starters are in bold:
|G||4||Aaron Craft||Sr.||6'2, 195||85.4||18.6||104.6|
|Great (and aggressive) defender, good distributor, iffy shooter|
|G||32||Lenzelle Smith Jr.||Sr.||6'4, 210||71.4||20.0||114.2|
|Good shooter, not great around basket, #2 offensive option behind Ross.|
|F||12||Sam Thompson||Jr.||6'7, 200||60.8||16.6||102.2|
|Remarkably athletic, great finisher at rim, mediocre shooter, blocks some shots|
|F||10||LaQuinton Ross||Jr.||6'8, 220||71.0||27.8||108.1|
|Volume shooter with iffy selection, solid outside shot, decent rebounder|
|C||23||Amir Williams||Jr.||6'11, 250||58.0||19.1||110.1|
|Excellent rebounder and shot-blocker, lots of putbacks, terrible hands|
|G||3||Shannon Scott||Jr.||6'1, 185||66.3||19.0||100.0|
|Great (and aggressive) defender, good distributor, iffy shooter|
|G||33||Amadeo Della Valle||So.||6'5, 190||28.6||20.5||95.2|
|Mostly a spot-up shooter, 32% from three, ineffective inside arc|
|C||55||Trey McDonald||Jr.||6'8, 240||29.9||13.5||89.2|
|Good off. rebounder, poor def. rebounder, high FT rate, terrible FT shooter|
|F||2||Marc Loving||Fr.||6'7, 215||27.6||23.1||99.5|
|Has essentially fallen out of rotation for last month, surpassed by ADV|
Tim Miles could've prevented this if he knew the Golden Rule of KenPom: Never Question KenPom.
— Tim Miles (@CoachMiles) March 12, 2014
Despite tempting fate, it looked like the Huskers would cruise to a Big Ten quarterfinal victory; they led by as many as 18 points in the second half. Then came KenPom's revenge:
Ohio State outscored Nebraska 41-19 over the final 13:45.
— Kyle Rowland (@KyleRowland) March 14, 2014
That's a really tough way to learn that particular lesson, though at least Nebraska is still projected to make the NCAA Tournament.
Anyway, Ohio State. Like with the Illinois preview, this is a copy-paste job with a few updates (and corrected stats) from the last preview.
Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott are very similar players; great defenders with very aggressive styles—both rank in the top 12 in steal rate—and solid distributors who struggle with their shot. Craft gets to the rim more often but doesn't finish quite as well as Scott, likely a product of having to take more contested shots late in the clock; Scott has a better mid-range jumper, while Craft is more selective—and therefore more efficient—with his three-point attempts. (Efficient here is relative: Craft makes 30% of his threes, Scott 28%.) Expect both to see plenty of time guarding Stauskas.
Sam Thompson will start over Scott in an effort to get more scoring—and size—on the floor for the Buckeyes. He's a 33.3% three-point shooter and a great finisher at the rim; too often, however, he settles for two-point jumpers that he hits at just a 24.2% clip, per hoop-math. He's not the on-ball defensive terror that Craft and Scott present and his rebounding numbers surprisingly fall just below Scott's (read: not great); however, he does provide another shot-blocking threat on the floor.
LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith Jr. are the primary scoring options, with Ross taking over 30% of the team's shots when he's on the floor, a top-100 rate nationally. Ross is a good outside shooter (37.8% 3-pt) who finishes well around the basket, though his two-point percentage (47.6%) is dragged down by a healthy number of mid-range jumpers that aren't his specialty. Ross does a good job taking care of the basketball. He also rarely looks to pass, which helps keep the turnover rate low. As he goes, the Buckeye offense tends to go.
Smith, meanwhile, distributes his shots almost equally between two-pointers (52.1%) and three-pointers (34.5%); his turnover rate is even lower than Ross's despite the fact he's more willing to give the ball up. While Smith isn't a great athlete, he rebounds pretty well for a player his size on the defensive end.
Detroit native Amir Williams mans the center position; he's by far the team's best rebounder and one of the better rim protectors in the conference. His offensive game a still a work-in-progress, though his post game has improved; he finishes well off putbacks and open dumpoffs, which represent a good chunk of his attempts, but he doesn't have great hands—he'll drop an entry pass or two. He's backed up by Trey McDonald, who's a total offensive non-factor aside from solid offensive rebounding and terrible (33.3%) free-throw shooting on a high rate of attempts. Thad Matta often eschews playing McDonald in favor of going small with Ross at the five.
Other backups who could see significant time include one-time Michigan recruit Amadeo Della Valle, a spot-up shooting specialist hitting 32.4% of his threes. After had been 0-for-8 from the field since February 15th before dropping 12 points on 3/7 shooting during the comeback against Nebraska. Freshman forward Marc Loving has almost entirely dropped out of the rotation, playing a combined 31 minutes over the team's last six games.
After losing to Michigan, Ohio State defeated Illinois on the road and Northwestern, Minnesota, and Michigan State at home while losing at Penn State and Indiana to close out the regular season. The Buckeyes eked out a 62-60 win over Purdue in the opening round of the BTT.
The Buckeyes are first in the B1G in defensive efficiency despite ranking fifth in eFG% against and eighth in DReb%. The reasons: OSU is first in forcing turnovers by a wide margin, second in 3-pt% against, second in preventing three-point attempts, and third in keeping opponents off the free-throw line. Two-point defense is the Buckeyes's glaring weakness, especially when Williams isn't on the floor.
On offense, OSU is in the middle of the B1G pack in just about every category save offensive rebounding (ninth) and FTA/FGA (third). Don't expect many turnovers, as the Buckeyes take care of the ball well and Michigan doesn't force many anyway. The disparity in FTA/FGA will be key; a big part of the regular-season win was Michigan's 22-16 edge in free throw attempts (and 18-11 advantage in makes).
Free up Stauskas. While Michigan has pretty much killed the Little Dude vs. Stauskas strategy, Ohio State boasts two of the best defensive guards in college basketball, and they'll play their usual aggressive on- and off-ball man defense regardless. The Wolverines won the first game even though Stauskas went just 1/3 inside the arc. They'll need to get him going to the basket more—or get big performances from the supporting cast again—if they want to knock off the Buckeyes again.
Take care of the ball. Ohio State's defense relies on forcing turnovers. So does their offense—if the Buckeyes are stuck in a halfcourt battle, they don't have the shooters to keep up with Michigan. This is pretty simple: take care of the rock and a win is likely.
Pack the paint. The presence of Craft (and Scott, when he's in) should allow Michigan to sag into the paint and prevent Ohio State from getting to the hoop with the ease that Illinois did this afternoon. The only truly dangerous outside shooter is Ross, and he's exactly whom Michigan should focus their extra attention upon. If Ohio State tries to keep up with Michigan's offense via outside shots from Craft, Scott, Thompson, and Smith ... well, that's going to favor the good guys.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 1