|WHAT||Ohio State at Michigan|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||9:00 PM Eastern, Tuesday|
|LINE||Michigan –8 (Kenpom)|
Michigan gets the chance to avenge their first defeat of the season tonight when Ohio State comes to Crisler, where they will be greeted by the sun. Or possibly Michigan's maize-on-maize jerseys. Either way, I can't look at them long enough to tell the difference.
Anyway, Brian previewed this Buckeye outfit in detail just a couple of weeks ago, so I'll spare much of the redundancy and point you in that direction.
Since Ohio State last played the Wolverines, they've gone 4-1, with their lone loss coming by three at the Breslin Center. In that game, Deshaun Thomas scored scored 28 points on 10-of-20 shooting. None of his teammates had more than five points, and non-Thomas Buckeyes combined to shoot 9-of-27 from the field. While Thomas didn't lead the team in scoring in recent wins over Penn State and Nebraska, this is still very much Deshaun Of The Dead, and now there's a movie poster and everything:
So, yes, the situation is still the same. Thomas is the best pure scorer in the league, perhaps the country. Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott are stellar perimeter defenders, not-so-stellar shooters. Lenzelle Smith Jr. is a good defensive rebounder and the only guy outside of Thomas who's a real threat with his outside shot. Sam Thompson is a pogo stick who shouldn't ever shoot outside of zero feet. Amir Williams (the starting center of late) and Evan Ravenel will both do good center things—rebound, block shots, defend well—while not getting a whole lot of post touches. Thomas will be tasked with carrying the offense while the rest will play obnoxiously good defense, and it's that latter bit that gave Michigan a whole heap of trouble the first time around.
Since they last played, OSU has the aforementioned loss at Michigan State, comfortable home wins over Iowa and Wisconsin, and road wins over doormats Penn State and Nebraska—the latter got a bit hairy at parts, but the Buckeyes held on for a seven-point margin. They sit tied with Michigan and Michigan State for second in the Big Ten behind Indiana; winning this game is pretty important for Michigan, obviously.
Four factors, conference only:
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||50.3 (5)||19.4 (9)||25.8 (10)||31.8 (6)|
|Defense||43.6 (2)||17.8 (8)||28.4 (3)||23.2 (1)|
Ohio State's offense is well below elite, producing the fifth-ranked offensive efficiency in the conference—nearly 18 points per 100 possessions behind Michigan. There's no one area offensively in which they really stand out (for good or bad) unless you count Deshaun Thomas as an area.
Defensively, however, this is the top-ranked unit in the conference and #9 nationally. They're allowing Big Ten opponents to shoot just 43% on twos and 30% on threes, though the latter number seems fluky—they're 10th in the conference at 3PA/FGA allowed, which is a stronger indicator of their three-point defense. The interior guys block a ton of shots, and despite that aggressive approach the Buckeyes keep opponents off the free-throw line better than any other Big Ten team.
Find a way to get the pick-and-roll working. Michigan's loss at Ohio State came in large part because the Wolverines could not find a way to get the bread-and-butter play working. Utilizing Aaron Craft's quickness and aggressiveness, the Buckeyes "locked the rails" against Trey Burke, pinning him to the sideline and keeping him away from the middle of the floor:
The key here won't so much be Burke as it will the bigs—if McGary/Horford/Morgan can slip a few of those picks or flip the pick to catch OSU off guard, they can create some easy buckets and force the Buckeyes to go back to the drawing board. If Craft gets hit with a cheap foul or two that he wouldn't get in Columbus, that would be nice, too.
Always, always account for Thomas. In the first game, Glenn Robinson III got lost a few times defensively and allowed Thomas to get open looks, which he of course knocked down. Robinson is coming off his worst game of the year—on both ends of the court—against Indiana, and he can't afford a repeat performance given his matchup. Michigan will likely give him plenty of help, but there can't be communication errors or lapses in concentration—Thomas will take advantage just about every time.
Aim for the head. Walking Dead enthusiasts know what I'm talking about.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 8
I'll never doubt you again, KenPom.