|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