Preview: #6 Ohio State at #19 Michigan

By Joe Beale on February 18, 2012 at 4:24a
Photo courtesy of AnnArbor.comSlow down Burke's penetration to beat UM.
Ohio State Buckeyes #6 Ohio State 22-4, 10-3 Big Ten Roster | Schedule 9:00 PM ET - ESPN —— Crisler Arena Ann Arbor, MI Michigan Wolverines #19 Michigan 19-7, 9-4 Big Ten Roster | Schedule

Tonight in a prime-time ESPN clash Ohio State goes to Ann Arbor to take on their hated rivals, the Michigan Wolverines. OSU is coming off an off-the-mat rebound victory at Minnesota in which they played with much more cohesion than they did in the loss to Sparty. Michigan has not played since Sunday, when they dispatched Bruce Weber's struggling Illini at home 70-61.

The Buckeyes are still tied for the lead in the Big Ten with Michigan State, and they need to win to keep pace with the Spartans. Tom Izzo's crew dismantled Wisconsin on Thursday, 69-55. OSU got balanced scoring from their leaders on Tuesday and that type of team emphasis will once again be important as they try to win on the road in a tough environment.

Ohio State leads the all-time series with UM, 91-71, although their record at Michigan is a miserable 26-52. Still, the Buckeyes have won 6 straight and 15 of the last 17 in the series, imitating the success of their football brethren during the last 6-7 years. In the first meeting back on 1/28, OSU used a 14-2 2nd half run to pull away from UM on their way to a 64-49 victory in Columbus. 

4 A. Craft SO 6-2/190 8.3 2.9 4.7 G 3 T. Burke FR 5-11/180 14.0 3.5 4.8
32 L. Smith Jr. SO 6-4/205 6.1 4.9 2.0 G 1 S. Douglass SR 6-3/200 7.6 2.7 2.2
44 W. Buford SR 6-6/220 15.3 4.8 3.1 F 0 Z. Novak SR 6-4/210 9.7 4.7 2.0
1 D. Thomas SO 6-7/225 14.2 4.3 0.8 F 10 T. Hardaway Jr. SO 6-6/200 14.3 3.5 2.5
0 J. Sullinger SO 6-9/265 17.6 9.2 1.0 C 52 J. Morgan SO 6-8/250 7.7 5.3 0.3


Michigan is a team that lives and dies shooting jump shots, which puts a premium on shooting a high percentage. The Wolverines shot well against Illinois on Sunday, hitting 50% of their shots overall and 48% from distance. They also went to the line 22 times, hitting 17 of them for 77%. UM is an excellent free-throw shooting team, and so OSU would do well to avoid fouling as much as possible, especially on drives to the basket.

The Wolverines use a variety of sets and screens to get their shooters open, but against the Buckeyes they will probably go with the most tried and true method of solving OSU's defense: the ball screen and pick-and-roll combination. The Buckeyes have struggled with this for most of the season, and Michigan does it extremely well. However, OSU cleaned up their defense in the 2nd half of the first meeting with the Wolverines, and John Beilein seemed to have no answer for it. 

If Michigan is to solve OSU's defense this time around, Trey Burke will be a big part of it. The freshman point guard gave ace defender Aaron Craft all he could handle in the first meeting, although he scored only 13 points on 5/11 shooting. The Wolverines shot poorly overall in the first meeting, hitting only 36%, and got to the line only 4 times. Look for Burke to be more aggressive this time around, working the pick-and-roll game for open shots and assists on drives to the hoop. 

Michigan shoots a large number of 3-pointers, and almost 50% of their shots come from beyond the arc. Looking only at the trio of Zack Novak, Evan Smotrycz, and Stu Douglass, the percentage is well over 50%, with leading scorer Tim Hardaway Jr. close to that as well. Smotrycz was recently sent to the bench in favor of the bulkier Jordan Morgan, but look for him to play a lot, especially if the Wolverines get down early and need a scoring lift from the bench.

UM was passive and soft two weeks ago in a 10-point loss to Michigan State (sound familiar?). In that game, they went to the line only 12 times and were out-rebounded by an astounding 39-15 margin. The Wolverines will need to be more aggressive and stronger in the paint if they are going to prevail against Ohio State, a team that is 2nd only to the Spartans in rebounding and rebounding defense in the Big Ten.

Buckeye Breakdown:

After the loss to Michigan State last weekend, there was a lot of talk among the Buckeye players about selfishness and not playing as a team. In fact, Jared Sullinger referred to the team as a bunch of "spoiled brats". Playing on the road in the Big Ten is extremely difficult, and it tends to bring a team together. Such was the case for OSU on Tuesday against Minnesota. 

(AP Photo/Hannah Foslien)The Buckeyes need to play like a team again.

The Buckeyes dished out 15 assists against only 9 turnovers, led by Aaron Craft and Will Buford with 5 dimes apiece. Minnesota actually outshot Ohio State from the field, but OSU made up for it at the line, hitting 78% (22/28) there while the Gophers made only 65% (15/23). They also held Minny to 5/20 from 3-point land. 

Against Michigan, OSU will need to keep an eye on the perimeter of course, but they also need to beware of the drive. UM's Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. are especially dangerous if they get the first step on you and beat the defender into the lane. Not only does that lead to many layups and trips to the foul line, but it draws help from other defenders, leading to open shots for the likes of Douglass, Smotrycz, and Novak. 

Look for UM to utilize a lot of high ball screens, which will make it essential that Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas hedge well to limit UM's ball movement and prevent wide-open 3-pointers. I have hammered on it for the entire season, but it's worth repeating again: the hedge is the best defense against ball screens, but until Sully consistently shows the ability and willingness to do it, other teams will continue to use this simple offensive tactic to riddle the otherwise-solid OSU defense.

On offense, it's pretty simple for the Buckeyes: move the ball around and find open shots. Michigan has no one who can defend either Sullinger or Thomas effectively down low, and so you can expect to see a lot of double-teams on the big guys. This will put a premium on good ball movement and hitting open shots. OSU's offense is at its best when they go inside-outside and reverse the ball against a sagging double-team. Getting good outside shooting from the likes of Buford, Smith, and Craft will silence the hostile crowd and lead to another victory for the Buckeyes in a series they have dominated.


  • Ohio State is 5-3 vs. ranked opponents this season, with wins coming against Florida, Duke, Indiana, Wisconsin, and these very same Wolverines. Aaron Craft averages 11.4 points per game in those contests, giving OSU four players averaging in double-figures against the ranked.
  • Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas will call the game for ESPN, with Erin Andrews providing sideline(?) reports. ESPN's College Gameday crew will be on-hand for an hour of pre-game coverage. 

Comments Show All Comments

Seabass1974's picture

We/I really need this win. Go Bucks!

The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender. - Woody Hayes

Run_Fido_Run's picture

If Ondre Pipkins is at the game today in Crisler Arena along with Erin Andrews, then it will be beauty and the (Belly of) the Beast.  

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

Gameday is in that armpit, where are the students?

Like the spoiled brat comments, now stop flopping!

Also, hate Novak.

Joe Beale's picture

Haha...UM basketball fans have adopted the Hoke-ism of referring to OSU as "Ohio". Check out the scoreboard on this picture

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

The "Ohio" thing officially pisses me off. The Denard "eating" thing looks so ridiculous that I'm not pissed off any more.

ThirdLegLouie's picture

"The "Ohio" thing officially pisses me off."-- You're joking, right??

If you ain't a Silver Bullet, you're a target

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

I know I shouldn't let it. It's not clever, funny, or worth being pissed off, but I am.

ThirdLegLouie's picture

It's not funny, it's hilarious. Hoke and scUM fans feel like they are somehow insulting us by calling us "Ohio"- but they aren't calling us "Ohio University", they're calling us "Ohio"- they're admitting that Ohio State represents the entire state of Ohio, which is how all Buckeye fans feel, right? If anything, it's a slight to every other school in the state of Ohio because scUM is saying they don't even exist--- tOSU IS Ohio. 

If you ain't a Silver Bullet, you're a target

Adambob's picture

When a scUM fan refers to OSU as Ohio tell them
"Don't you mean O-H-I-O !"

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

Posers.  Of course Michigan fans can't think of their own material so they have to steal their new coach's. 

Class of 2010.

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

Students showed up..pundits are picking against us.

tampa buckeye's picture

If we Move the ball well this could get ugly.  

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

I would love to see us blow them out. We seemed to have found a grove last game, I just hope it's improved upon.

Pam's picture

Just put on Game Day and saw Denard doing that stupid move he did during the game. I don't think I have ever changed the channel that quick before. It doesn't help that he looks like Desmond Howard. yuck

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

I thin he looks entirely stupid (less like Desmond Howard more like Howard the Duck) and that "eating" gesture looks so bad it makes me almost feel sorry for him. The highlighter yellow that is apparently their new color is the icing on that cake of stupid.

otrain2416's picture

Did anyone watch denard attempting to throw the football in the basketball hoop didn't even come close 4 times then tried to dunk it fumble the ball while trying to dunk then barely making a layup with the ball bahahahahahaha

We were born to love Ohio State and hate that team up north.

Buckeyejason's picture

Go Nuts! Beat Skunk Bears!


RBuck's picture

IMO this is a must win in order to win the B1G regular season title. Same as last game...shut down the role-playing 3-point shooters and the Buckeyes win.

Anyone else getting tired of these late games in the ETZ?

Long live the southend.

RedStorm45's picture

Yes.  9, 9:30...BTN pisses me off with their 6/6:30 tips.  anytime between 7-8:30 start is fine with me.

RedStorm45's picture

When was that twitter pic from (before the broadcast or during)? It looks like there are about 200 students there hahaha.  Novak sucks.

johnblairgobucks's picture

Michigan fans, players and coaches sound very unintelligent when they call OSU "Ohio".  The fact that they intentionally make a mistake about their opponent in a attempt to disrespect us, makes the phrase all the more ridiculous.

They sound like buffoons, they think they're slamming us, and it's really pathetic.  I almost feel bad for them.

RedStorm45's picture

Odds of Ross seeing some PT tonight.....30-1?  I don't really care what Michigan University decides to call us.  If they want to sound misinformed that's on them.  I hope #44 can hit more then 30% today, if not, well...

William's picture

It's the University of Michigan..

RedStorm45's picture

someone doesn't understand sarcasm...

RedStorm45's picture

Last thing...pretty sure a loss tonight puts us out of range for a 1 seed and nearly impossible to win an outright big 10 regular season title.  HUGE game.