Hello. Brian again.
||Michigan at Ohio State
Heart Of All Evil, Ohio
||1:30 PM Sunday
||OSU -2 (Kenpom)
ABANDON A LOT LESS HOPE THAN USUAL YOU GUYS
AHHHHHH I LIKE PRETENDING I'M AT THE DENTIST
On offense, Ohio State is Deshaun Thomas and a cliff. Thomas puts up almost a third of OSU's shots, connecting at a 52% clip from two and 40% from three, with an impressively low turnover rate. He's another one of those NBA prototype small forwards that gets drafted into duty as a "power forward" in college, and will provide a stiff test for Glenn Robinson III—and the team as a whole. With 6'5"+ guys at two of the other wing spots, Michigan may end up switching a lot of screens in an attempt to force Thomas into jumpers.
Thomas's box scores against the top opposition OU has played reveals a consistent level of production:
Michigan does not have an elite interior defender like Duke and Kansas, but neither are they as incompetent positionally at the five as Illinois is. Thomas will get his; Michigan would do well to force him to take two-point jumpers as much as possible. Note the assists, or lack thereof, as well. Not sure if that's on him or his teammates or a combination… either way, heavy rotation to him probably won't burn Michigan too badly.
The other star-type substance for Ohio State is point guard Aaron Craft, who hounded Trey Burke for most of last year. Burke's box scores versus OSU:
Craft forced Burke into 16 turnovers in three games. This year, Burke has twelve in his last 11 games and is averaging 1.6 per game against major competition. If Burke is going to be the national player of the year, this is the matchup he has to flip from last year. He can't be as efficient as he has been for big chunks of the year but he has to turn in something at least on par with his performance in Michigan's win last year.
Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, Craft has not picked up the offensive slack left by the departures of Sullinger and Buford. He remains a low-usage player of middling effectiveness, shooting 44%/33%. He does a good job as a distributor; OSU needs points from someone, though, and he doesn't appear to be the guy. Duke basically dared him to score and he responded with a 2 for 11 performance from two, 1 of 4 from three. He had seven points on nine shots against Kansas and only made two shots in the halfcourt against Illinois, adding two fast break layups off his own steals to crack into double digits.
Shooting guard Lenzelle Smith is a quality three-point shooter who is a liability once you run him off the line. He shoots 46% from within the arc, doesn't get to the line, and is under 60% when he does get there. Small forward Sam Thompson is a super-athletic sophomore without much game outside of leaping over people and dunking on their face—think Rodney Williams a couple years ago.
Ohio State has a rotation similar to Michigan's at the five, with Amir Williams and Evan Ravenel splitting minutes about down the middle. Neither has much post game; Ravenel is slightly more likely to put up a shot, and Williams picks up a lot of free throws—that he converts at a 50% clip. Williams is a shot alterer with a block rate above 10% and a high-volume offensive rebounder who gets in foul trouble frequently. Ravenel has some OREB game himself but is a less imposing defender at 6'8" to Williams's 6'11". He may get the occasional post touch.
That's six; OSU goes eight deep. Sophomores LaQuinton Ross and Shannon Scott are the primary post players. Ross is a high-volume, high-turnover black hole is an effective slasher and not much of a shooter. Scott has emerged into an assist machine and defensive menace—top ten steal rate—in his second year of being Not Trey Burke. He's not a shooter at all, with a 56/44/37 FT/2/3 shooting line.
Ohio State had somewhat close games against powers that finished in defeat. OSU actually led Duke (at Duke) most of the way, but fell behind at the six minute mark and lost by five. A home game against Kansas was much the same way, with OSU leading for much of the first half before finding offensive stagnation and letting the game slip away from them. They had just eight points in the final ten minutes.
Less understandable than getting Withey'd was a 19-point blowout at Illinois; Purdue hung relatively tough at Mackey, but was never in serious threat of taking the lead. The rest of OSU's schedule has very bad; their only KP100 wins are against #92 Purdue and #85 Washington.
It's hard to separate out what is real in these numbers and what is the schedule:
||Off. Reb. %
That looks capital-E elite and has the Buckeyes tenth in the Kenpom rankings, but it is built on a lot of dominating blowouts against bad teams. Games against major competition have gone less well… but other than that Illinois game, there's nothing there you can point out as a huge-huge disappointment.
Burke vs Craft must be at least a draw. I don't think Michigan is winning a lot of games where Burke goes 1-11 from the floor with 8 turnovers. This is going to be a war; quien es mas macho?
Two point jumpers for everyone. Bizarrely, the only players who crack 40% shooting two point jumpers for OSU are Ravenel and Williams, and that's very small sample size. Thompson, Scott, and Craft are hovering around 25%. By contrast, Michigan has Burke above 50% and Robinson and Hardaway near it. Stauskas not so much, but only 13% of Stauskas attempts are two point jumpers.
If Michigan can keep OSU away from the rim, they should be able to win HORSE against these guys. If they had some variety of pack-line defense they could run, that would be ideal. They don't, but they can help off just about anyone not named Thomas and they'll be fine.
Rebound on par. Through three games in conference, Michigan is second in both offensive and defensive rebounding, albeit against meh competition. On the other hand, Ohio State has played Purdue and Illinois instead of Northwestern and Iowa and is currently getting shot down on the offensive boards (8th) and doing well on defense (third). Part of Win At HORSE is battling the Buckeye to a stalemate on the boards. Without a lot of dual post action from either team and Michigan just about matching OSU's athleticism, that should be doable.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 4! Screw you, Kenpom! BOOM