|WHAT||#5 Michigan (19-1) vs
#31 Ohio State (13-6)
Ann Arbor, MI
|LINE||Michigan –10, 83% to win (Kenpom)
Michigan –11.4, 89% to win (Torvik)
Michigan got back on track with a demolition of Indiana and now feels like they're really 19-1 again, so hooray for that. That demolition was built on an 0.7 points per possession performance that once again sees Michigan sit first in the country in defensive efficiency. This is a fine way to win games, especially because it results in Sam Vecenine mock drafts in which Charles Matthews is the only Wolverine mentioned.
Up next: the easiest game left on the schedule, give or take some tenths of a percentage against Rutgers in a week. Since it's This Big Ten that "easiest game left on the schedule" is against a top 50 team in Kenpom. But at least it's at home.
THE LINEUP CARD
Click for big.
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||13||CJ Jackson||Jr.||6'1, 175||76||24||104||No|
|Mediocre point guard is an asset from behind line (39%) and will take off-dribble threes. Horrible in midrange. 20 TO rate.|
|G||2||Luther Muhammad||Fr.||6'3, 185||70||18||109||No|
|Composite #79 FR gets a ton of his own shots, takes a lot of difficult twos. Another unassisted 3 shooter. Hitting 43%.|
|G||44||Keyshawn Woods||Fr.||6'3, 205||66||16||106||No|
|Wake grad transfer is good-at-bad-shots guy with ~50% other twos, hitting 45% on them. 20 A rate. Struggling from 3 (30%) but career 41% shooter in major conference.|
|F||11||Andre Wesson||So.||6'6 220||71||16||109||No|
|Burlywing has significantly improved his shooting and TO rate, but that latter is still at 20. Three-level scorer now. Will play some 5.|
|C||24||Kaleb Wesson||Sr.||6'9, 270||61||31||112||Meh|
|Is Nick Ward. Has some three point range though. 5.6 fouls per 40 is a problem.|
|G||21||Duane Washington||Fr.||6'3, 190||43||15||94||Meh|
|Just A Shooter taking most of his shots outside the arc and hitting 34%. Too many other twos he converts at 30%.|
|F||5||Musa Jallow||So.||6'5 200||33||14||100||No|
|Rangy defensive wing takes tough shots at rim. OREB threat. Just 47 shots on season.|
|F||0||Justin Ahrens||Fr.*||6'5, 180||10||16||91||Meh|
|Extreme Just A Shooter except for 32 TO rate. 90% of shots from deep and 0 FTAs on season.|
|C||35||Jaedon LeDee||Sr.||6'9 230||33||6||84||Yes|
|Composite #103 FR looks like solid backup C in limited minutes but stats fall apart against quality foes.|
[hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Like Indiana, Ohio State followed up a strong non-conference schedule with a harsh Big Ten reality check. Before Saturday's win at Nebraska, Ohio State had been on a five game losing streak that included a conference-room destroying loss at Rutgers and double-digit Ls to Iowa, Maryland, and Purdue, the latter two at home.
Kenpom has them trundling home at 9-11 in the league, which would probably be enough for a bid in the best conference in America—but that's now the focus. Survive league play and get in.
That goes double thanks to some personnel issues. Micah Potter's departure on the eve of the season left Ohio State short-handed in the frontcourt, and Kyle Young's recent injury turns that into a bit of a crisis. Kaleb Wesson is fine as far as he goes but sometimes that's not too far since he's averaging 5.6 fouls per 40; he's had at least four fouls in eight of the last nine games, and in many of those his minutes have been limited as a result.
OSU clearly doesn't want to play freshman Jaedon LeDee too much. He's played 5 and 10 minutes in the two games since Young was knocked out, and in Kenpom top 100 games he's got an ORTG of 60 without a block or steal to his name. He too is a foul machine. He may be the only large man in the conference to not crush Iowa's defense: in his most extensive Big Ten outing to date he was 2/8 from the floor in 19 minutes.
OSU's only alternative is to go super small by sliding Andre Wesson, a 6'6" burlywing, to the 5 and trying to cope. This setup was actually the impetus for a 13-2 first half run against Nebraska that was the main reason OSU secured that win.
Ohio State is now a weird collection of guys who are funhouse mirror clones of each other. Amongst significant contributors everyone shoots a meaningful number of threes, has a reasonable assist rate, turns the ball over too much, and hits free throws. There is nobody who's particularly good at getting to the rim—even Kaleb Wesson gets under half his shots there and two-thirds of those makes are assisted. As a team OSU takes 29% of their shots in the midrange, which is top 100, and gets to the rim 32% of the time, which is 250th nationally. OSU is excellent once there.
Anyway: Kaleb Wesson is one of those 6'9", 270-280 pound centers who try to grind your face off. He'll grab a bunch of rebounds, back guys down in the post, etc. Wesson does bring a significant amount of skill to the table—he's a 33% three-point shooter and is okay away from the rim inside the arc; he's also 73% from the line on a butt-ton of attempts. Wesson draws more fouls than all but two other players nationally.
Wesson, like many of OSU's middling players, suffers once he gets to good competition. His two point shooting drops almost ten points to 47% in games against top 100 opponents. Allowing him to shoot is fine; keeping him off the line—and keeping Jon Teske in the game—is a priority.
Kaleb's brother Andre Wesson was a disaster offensively a year ago with a 92 ORTG on wafer-thin usage. This season he's improved in all facets, slashing his TO rate by ten points, and shooting 58/36 on increased usage. He's still too loose with the ball to be truly efficient but he's got some mid-range game and will get to the rim by himself some. He's one of only a couple OSU players who maintains his efficiency against good competition.
The backcourt is full of guys who are… okay. Unlike many mid-tier Big Ten teams they've got a bonafide point guard in CJ Jackson. Jackson generates most of his own shots inside the arc, sets up his teammates with a 24% assist rate, gets to the rim some, and is hitting a healthy 39% from three on the season.
But his game inside the arc is entirely dependent upon getting to the rim, which he can't do against good opponents. He loses 11 points of ORTG against top 100 opponents because his already iffy shooting inside the arc collapses to 36%. He's hitting 17% on other twos on the season. A TO rate of 20 is also a major issue.
Jackson will rise up off the dribble so Michigan will have to be wary.
Keyshawn Woods is a grad transfer from Wake Forest who's decently efficient despite a major drop in three point efficacy. Woods is a career 41% shooter on nearly 350 attempts who's hitting just 30% this year. That's despite an overall drop in his usage. Woods has great free throw shooting and is very good (45%) on other twos so that's likely to be a fluke.
Woods isn't Just A Shooter; he's got a 20 assist rate. But he isn't a great athlete and when he drives it's almost always to pull up—he doesn't get to the line much and about 80% of his twos are away from the rim.
Woods gets a lot of OSU's late-clock shots and is really efficient and twos in that situation… and hitting 21% on threes. If Michigan successfully contests Woods's shots he's likely to put up a clunker.
The final backcourt member is freshman Luther Muhammad, a low four-star who's displayed an all-around game thus far in his career. He's OSU's best three point shooter at 43% but takes only about a third of his shots from behind the arc despite being barely better inside the line (46%) and having almost half of his threes unassisted. For whatever reason he's not the unabashed gunner his stats suggest he should be.
Muhammad is another guy who doesn't get to the rim much:
Michigan will no doubt play him to force drives.
OSU's bench is mostly two guys. Freshman Duane Washington is Just A Shooter hitting 34% from deep who shoots a ton when he's on the court and never gets to the line. Musa Jallow is a 14% usage guy who's a defensive pest and rebouding threat on both ends; he's been relatively efficient this year thanks to 8/21 shooting from three but was at 25% last year and may be enjoying a low sample size distortion rather than a real and appreciable bump in his shooting ability. Five of his eight makes on the season have come in the last four games, FWIW.
Justin Ahrens—yes the brother of the Ahrens at MSU—gets about 4 MPG and 90% of his shots are from behind the line. Jaedon LeDee, discussed above, is getting scattered minutes.
OSU is another Big Ten team with a better defense than offense. That defense is built on really good two-point D (24th) and above-average TOs and rebounding. They've struggled to carry most of that over to conference play, where they're 7th and only sort of good at two-point D. OSU's lack of rim protection jumps out in league play, where their 3% block rate is dead last. They're also 13th in allowing free throws to get up.
Ohio State's offense is fairly wonky at 52nd and they're 9th in conference play; their 20 TO rate is 13th and they've been highly dependent on getting up and hitting threes. Their OREB rate is only middling but they give up a lot of transition thanks to that and a 10.4 steal rate suffered.
The first foul at center. Kaleb Wesson both fouls zestily and draws buckets of calls. Neither team has a good answer at backup C. OSU's small lineup did some work against Nebraska but isn't likely to repeat the same with a D that's really good at denying the three point line. Isaiah Livers is also a backup plan if Teske's leaving the other Wesson too open from three.
On the other hand, Michigan fans do not relish the prospect of Kaleb Wesson going up against either Austin Davis or Brandon Johns in the event of Teske foul trouble. (Though the explosive combination of Wesson's 8.1 fouls drawn per 40 and Davis's 7.9 fouls committed might provide some comic relief.)
Other twos: an opportunity for OSU and trap for Michigan. OSU takes a lot; Michigan forces even more. OSU has a lot of guys who aren't going to be efficient on drives to the basket but have good midrange game, so if OSU is hitting they could stay in contact for a long time.
Meanwhile, OSU is pretty good at forcing other twos themselves and Michigan sucks at hitting them. With Ohio State getting zilch in the way of rim protection against top 100 foes, Michigan will have to eschew the temptation of the midrange and try to yam it on people's faces.
FT shooting. OSU's been unfortunate with their free throw defense—they're 350th. Michigan's pretty bad at shooting them and will be on the line a ton.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 10.