Preview: Ohio State

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


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]


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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


Ohio State by 4


UMHoops preview. Maize n Brew preview. Eleven Warriors preview.


Shop Smart Sho…

February 11th, 2014 at 3:21 PM ^

"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."


Might I humbly suggest having him post up the midget assigned to guard him?  Of course, I can't remember the last time I saw a Michigan player make an entry pass to a post player that didn't involve someone slipping a screen.


February 11th, 2014 at 3:51 PM ^

Received feedback here and on Twitter that some people love the images and some can't read the charts. Just updated them to make the background pictures more opaque—is that better for people or still too cluttered?


February 11th, 2014 at 3:56 PM ^

Not really - it doesn't add anything to the presentation of the data, nor it does not add any context to the story you are trying to illustrate. Keep it simple. But I'm on my little visual presentation of quantitative information soapbox.

Jeff M

February 11th, 2014 at 4:11 PM ^

I for one enjoy the images, and the new charts showig the four factors -- I spent a couple minutes on them really taking them in. I only saw them post-opacity update, but I had no issues with readability.


February 11th, 2014 at 3:36 PM ^

Wow, it hasn't seemed that way watching a lot of their games.  He was a mistake machine there for awhile (not all of the mistakes were turnovers, granted). 

Question:  This would be the first victory by MBB or football in Columbus since 2000? 


February 11th, 2014 at 3:51 PM ^

Ross has a terrible handle, but I think he has cut down on dribbling, except for drives to the hole, in which case he only has to dribble once or twice. His turnover rate was around 25% last year; he's reduced that, but by avoiding dribbling rather than improving his skill level. Whatever, I'll take it.

RE: UM winning at OSU - I know Michigan won in Columbus in 2003 (I want to say Abram, Brown, and Horton were freshmen?). I think that was the last time.


February 11th, 2014 at 7:28 PM ^

If you want to look at awesome photos, go look at the photo galleries. The photos make for an inelegant design and bad communication of the intent of the chart. 

If you're just a fan "bad design," well then you have a point.


February 11th, 2014 at 3:47 PM ^

I fear we will see history repeat itself once again and the Buckeyes, who going into the game couldnt hit the ocean from the beach, suddenly channel their inner 97 Chicago Bulls and shoot 63% from the floor (Craft going 6-8 from beyond the arc) and win 81-68.

My 54 years of Michigan fandom has taught me one thing.  The mere site of our jersey's on the court turns the crappiest shooting teams into groups of "cant miss" prospect with each player having an even more insane heat-check than the guy before him.  It ALWAYS happens and it'll probably happen again.

Mark it down.  Craft will look like an offensive machine tonight.  And then we wont do it again for any game, against any level competition for the rest of the season.


February 11th, 2014 at 4:50 PM ^

It could be our defense except that those same lights out shooting teams seem to revert to the norm against everybody else - regardless of their relative defensive abilities.  

Iowa's next game is against Penn State and they are terrible defensively allowing 73 points per game.  Wanna bet Roy Marble Jr does not shoot his brains out against them?  

One game after his lights out shooting performance against us the immortal Yogi Ferrel shoots 5-16 (2-9 from behind the arc) against a Minnesota team not exactly know for their defense as they averaged 68 points per game going in defensively.

Call it luck, karma, God's will or whatever you want - teams shoot lights out against us and then revert completely fo form against everybody else.  And I fear it's gonna happen again tonight.  Craft is averaging 9.3 points per game and 36% from behind the arc.  I'll bet you he goes for 20 and is over 50% tonight.  And then next game he'll go 2-11 or something like he does every game.

Except one.  They all do it.


February 11th, 2014 at 5:51 PM ^

"It ALWAYS happens to us"

It probably has more to do with our ongoing, well-documented defensive issues than some kind of karma or bad luck. When are people going to stop being surprised that Player X is shooting so well against us (or worse fatalistically expecting it), and instead start being pissed that our weak D has let yet another opponent look like an offensive star.


February 11th, 2014 at 3:50 PM ^

Not unless they have an epiphany on offense. Note I don't say defense bc there simply are zero defenders on this team outside of Walton so to expect a leap their is false hope. This team goes as its offense goes. The offense at least as the potential for greatness.

Unfortunately, the half-court O we have seen all year will fail to score 60 points against OSU. Unless there are some signifcant new wrinkles or Irvin (yes Irvin) goes off like THjr did back in the day vs. OSU at home.

OSU will do everything they can to make our half court D look good by throwing up bricks but I think there D will lead to just enough transition buckets for the win. OSU WILL come into this game with a chip on their shoulder... they rise up for UM.  

The entire game  relies on UM O in the half court. They get buckets and they force OSU to play a half court O and UM has a chance.


Stauskas 12 pts (over)

Irvin 15 pts (over)

GRIII 8 pts (under)

honestly were would you put your money? Here's to Irvin going WAY over.




February 11th, 2014 at 3:53 PM ^

One of either Robinson or Stauskas needs to show up (preferably both).  The problem is if they play lock down defense on Stauskas like IU and Iowa did and there's no other option, we're completely fucked, for lack of a better term.

If someone else can emerge as a threat they will (ideally) back off Stauskas a bit.

Panic if nobody finds their shot in the first 3 minutes of the game.  The IU and Iowa games started off really sloppy for Michigan and we couldn't seem to recover.


February 11th, 2014 at 3:53 PM ^

So how about some zany off-the-wall type prediction that might come to pass? I'm in the "Spike DUNKS" boat. Me and some guys at the office were thinking some up.


February 11th, 2014 at 3:56 PM ^

mostly hope they win, but also hope it is at least close enough that dakich doesnt have to go all "axiomatic" about effort and whatever else to kill time. once the seal is broken he just gets more and more bombastic. 


February 11th, 2014 at 4:44 PM ^


We're going to win this game. Handily I might add. We're going to hold onto them by the nose, and we're gonna kick him in the ass. We're gonna kick the hell out of them all the time, and we're gonna go through them like crap through a goose!



February 11th, 2014 at 6:11 PM ^

Della Valle has done pretty well inside the arc as of late, actually.  Not a "You're wrong about him" accusation of the Preview: but just an observation that he's done fairly decent on dribble penetration and getting a shot off at times and can be a threat, say, if Spike is guarding him.


February 11th, 2014 at 6:22 PM ^

If the effort is like one shown at Iowa the other day, Michigan is in for a very long night.   I totally agree with the other posters that Stauskus and GR3 need to bring their A games.   However, unlike the other recent Big 10 games, I somehow doubt Ohio puts Craft on Stauskus but perhaps they will.   

The locals will be fired up as always.   I live in a burb outside Cbus and watch a lot of Big 10 games including Ohio.   I thought they were toast a few weeks ago.   I doubt Scott starts another game.  He's played very well and shot much better coming off the bench.

If the Wolverines play well, they should win this one.  Just hope the effort is there....



February 11th, 2014 at 6:51 PM ^

Tempted to check the score before watching (or avoiding) this, but I'm not yet quite so jaded so I'll probably just watch witht he finger hovered over the ffwd button and skip through PAIN like I did for most of the second half of the iowa game.  Rarely being able to watch live has its benefits.


Or hey, maybe Urbz will loan them Fickel and they'll choose to not follow the blueprint that has been handed to them on how to completely shut us down offensively and Nik will go off and this will be a nice, comfy win.  One can hope.


February 11th, 2014 at 7:22 PM ^

This feels like a close loss, but who knows. OSU had been decent all year outside of that losing streak. This feels like a schedule loss as much as anything given the relatively short turn around.


February 11th, 2014 at 9:03 PM ^

They make the matchups easier to read, and provide some good context by including the national averages--a category which would probably clog up the CHART format a bit too much, were it added to the matrices.