Preview: Ohio State

Preview: Ohio State

Submitted by Ace on February 11th, 2014 at 3:00 PM

THE ESSENTIALS

WHAT Michigan (17-6, 9-2 B1G) at Ohio State (19-5, 6-5)
WHERE Value City Arena, Columbus, Ohio
WHEN 9 pm Eastern, Tuesday
LINE Ohio State -4 (KenPom)
TV ESPN/WatchESPN (PBP: Mike Tirico; Analyst: Dan Dakich)

Right: When we last met. [Dustin Johnston/UMHoops]

THE STAKES

This is Michigan's only scheduled matchup with Ohio State this season; it's also the last game KenPom predicts they'll lose. Find a way to win this one and the Wolverines can afford a little wiggle room in the home matchups upcoming against Wisconsin and Michigan State. Lose it and the margin for error gets ever smaller for their hopes of winning the Big Ten title.

THE CRAFT FACTOR

WARNING: Dan Dakich is calling a game involving Aaron Craft. Adjust your volume settings accordingly, maybe practice a few eye-rolls to avoid any extraocular muscle pulls.

THE LINEUP CARD

Probable starters are in bold:

Pos. # Name Yr. Ht./Wt. %Min %Poss SIBMIHHAT
G 4 Aaron Craft Sr. 6'2, 195 86.0 17.6 Kinda
Great (and aggressive) defender, good distributor, iffy shooter
G 3 Shannon Scott Jr. 6'1, 185 68.4 19.5 Yes
Great (and aggressive) defender, good distributor, iffy shooter
G 32 Lenzelle Smith Jr. Sr. 6'4, 210 70.1 20.6 No
Good shooter, not great around basket, #2 offensive option behind...
F 10 LaQuinton Ross Jr. 6'8, 220 67.6 27.0 No
Volume shooter with iffy selection, solid outside shot, decent rebounder
C 23 Amir Williams Jr. 6'11, 250 59.9 19.6 Very
Excellent rebounder and shot-blocker, lots of putbacks, Morgan-esque hands
F 12 Sam Thompson Jr. 6'7, 200 57.7 16.7 No
Remarkably athletic, great finisher at rim, mediocre shooter, blocks some shots
F 2 Marc Loving Fr. 6'7, 215 31.2 23.3 Yes
PT fading to ~10 mpg, hasn't hit FG since Jan. 20(!), okay rebounder
G 33 Amadeo Della Valle So. 6'5, 190 29.9 21.4 No
Mostly a spot-up shooter, 36% from three, ineffective inside arc
C 55 Trey McDonald Jr. 6'8, 240 27.9 12.8 Very
Good off. rebounder, poor def. rebounder, high FT rate, terrible FT shooter

Thompson may start in place of Scott; he's done so in each of the last three games to help OSU get more offense on the floor. Scott is still averaging more minutes in those games, however, so I'm keeping the chart as-is.

THE THEM

Even though Michigan hasn't faced off against them this season, Ohio State's squad should look quite familiar—they're essentially last year's team minus Deshaun Thomas, whose high-usage, high-efficiency scoring has proven quite difficult to replace.

The backcourt remains the same. Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott are very similar players; great defenders with very aggressive styles—both rank in the top 20 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. Expect both to see plenty of time guarding Stauskas.

As mentioned above, Sam Thompson may start over Scott in an effort to get more scoring—and size—on the floor for the Buckeyes. He's a 35.6% 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 26.4% clip, per hoop-math. He's not the on-ball defensive terror that Craft and Scott present and his rebounding numbers surprisingly fall right in line with 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 very good outside shooter (41.6% 3-pt) who finishes well around the basket, though his two-point percentage (44.6%) is dragged down by a healthy number of mid-range jumpers that aren't his specialty. As Dylan points out, Ohio State's chances at victory rely heavily on a good shooting performance from Ross:

6-foot-8 forward LaQuinton Ross leads the Buckeyes with 14.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. But as he goes, Ohio State’s offense tends to go. He has just a 38.7% effective field goal percentage in losses compared to 50.6% on the season.

Ross does a good job taking care of the basketball. He also rarely looks to pass, which helps keep the turnover rate low.

Smith, meanwhile, distributes his shots almost equally between two-pointers (51.5%) and three-pointers (38.0%); 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 (32.1%) free-throw shooting on a high rate of attempts, though 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 36.1% of his threes, and freshman forward Marc Loving, whose playing time has waned as he's in the midst of a horrible shooting slump (0/10 FG in his last five games).

THE RESUME

The Buckeyes have won four of their last five—including road upsets at Wisconsin and Iowa—after they fell to 2-4 in Big Ten play with a four-loss skid capped by a defeat at Nebraska. The lone loss in their recent stretch was a bad one, however: in overtime at home against Penn State. OSU is 2-3 against KP50 teams, though they've played only one of those games at home—a ten-point loss to Iowa.

THE TEMPO-FREE

Yes, I'm toying around with the features on my new MacBook. Do y'all prefer the pretty charts below—with Michigan's four factors and the D-I average included—or the old way of doing things? Suggestions for how to improve this, as always, are welcome.

We've got enough of a sample that I'm now using conference-only four factors:

The Buckeyes are second in the B1G in defensive efficiency despite ranking 7th in eFG% against and 10th in DReb%. The reasons: OSU is first in forcing turnovers, first in 3-pt% against, second in preventing three-point attempts, and fourth 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 (9th) and FTA/FGA (3rd). 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; if OSU gets to the line regularly, this could be a tough one to pull off for Michigan.

THE KEYS

Free up Stauskas. Ohio State boasts two guards in Craft and Scott who are perfectly suited to replicating the aggressive ball-denial defense of Yogi Ferrell and (sigh) Mike Gesell that shut down Nik Stauskas in Michigan's two recent losses. If Michigan wants to pull this off away from home, they have to find a way—whether it's switching up their off-ball movement or having Stauskas play like a true point guard and start with the ball—to get their best scorer and creator the basketball, plain and simple.

Take care of the ball. The rather lackadaisical ballhandling exhibited by Stauskas, Glenn Robinson, and Caris LeVert in recent games won't fly against an aggressive Ohio State defense. Ohio State has enough trouble scoring in halfcourt sets that Michigan can't be giving them easy points on the break, and against such a good three-point defense the Wolverines also can't afford to waste possessions. If Spike Albrecht is the answer here, Michigan can hide his defensive issues a little by matching him up against Craft or Scott.

No easy looks. I don't have to remind you that Michigan's perimeter defense hasn't been good. While OSU doesn't boast a lineup of deadeye shooters, Ross and Smith are both reliable from the outside and Craft can connect when teams sag off too far. OSU's three-point shooting has been much better in wins than losses (surprise!); the Wolverines can't blow switches, fail to identify shooters, or flat-out fail to properly contest shots—ahem, GET YOUR HANDS UP, CARIS—or they could have a tough time making up those points on the other end.

THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES

Ohio State by 4

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