Where: Crisler Arena â€“ Ann Arbor, MI
When: 4:05pm EST
Records: OSU 26-3 (14-1); Wolverines 20-10 (8-7)
Opponent: The Wolverines play host to Ohio State dreaming of an upset that would secure an at-large bid (and likely 1st round exit) in the Big Dance. Those dreams come courtesy of a tainted 67-56 victory over Sparty Tuesday night in the eyesore known as Crisler Arena.
Drew Neitzel, playing with the bird flu, looked even more sickly than usual managing just 11 points on a season low 7 FG attempts. The 'W' was the third in the last four games for UM but it didn't silence many critics and one has to wonder if the UM faithful will be accepting of a loss to OSU if it leads to the removal of Tommy 'NIT' Amaker. Reaching the end of his 6th season, Amaker boasts a 43-52 record in conference games and 0 NCAA appearances although he has produced one prestigious NIT Championship and one NIT runner-up. Even with all the negativity I'm layin' down, it is entirely possible that Michigan will come out and play well on Senior Day considering what's at stake for them and what isn't at stake for the Buckeyes. UM had some moments in the first matchup and trailed by only 4 with 8:52 to go before a 9-1 OSU run broke the Wolverine's spirit.
Players: A quartet of seniors will play their last home game for the maize and blue. Dion Harris leads the team in scoring (13.4) and was the star of the MSU win with 24 points on 7-14 shooting. 6â€™10 Courtney Sims averages 12.9 points and leads the team in rebounding at 6.2 per game. The consistently inconsistent Sims had 17 points and 5 boards in the loss at OSU last month. Brent Petway (6.7 pts, 5.7 reb) will also say goodbye to the UM faithful as he winds down a disappointing career showing no real improvement in four years under Amaker. Team captain Lester Abram (9.1 pts) rounds out this stellar senior class.
Buckeye Breakdown: OSU captured their 2nd straight regular season conference title beating Wisconsin 49-48 Sunday afternoon, severely diminishing the relevance of todayâ€™s matchup from a Buckeye perspective. Considering overconfidence has hurt this team before it will be interesting to see if OSU comes out ready to play or if they put forth a lackadaisical effort similar to those experienced twice against Penn State and at home versus Purdue. At this point, a #2 seed appears to be the worst case scenario. I like Coach Mattaâ€™s track record in March so Iâ€™m gonna guess lack of focus wonâ€™t be a problem. Then again, this is probably the most frustrating #1 ranked team Iâ€™ve ever seen.
Key Players: Greg Oden continues to lead the team in points (15.3), rebounds (9.5), blocks (3.5) and, assuredly, traveling calls. The Odenator had just 11 points and 5 rebounds along with 5 turnovers in the clincher versus the Badgers showcasing exactly why he needs another year of seasoning if wants to be an immediate offensive contributor in the NBA. Ivan Harris (13) and Mike Conley (11) were the only other Buckeyes to reach double figures versus Wisky as Matta shortened his bench considerably. Othello Hunter (10 min), Daequan Cook (12 min) and David Lighty (11 min) all saw their minutes shrink combining to produce just 6 points and 4 rebounds for the game. All three should see more action today in preparation for the postseason.
Notes: OSU is roughly a 5 point favoriteâ€¦Oden was named a finalist for the Oscar Robertson Trophy which is awarded to the top player as voted on by the US Basketball Writers Associationâ€¦In recruiting news, The Disptach reports the Buckeyes obtained a verbal commitment from Luke Babbitt, who is considered the #1 player in Nevada. The 6â€™8â€ junior picked OSU over Gonzaga, UCLA and Arizona and becomes the 5th member of a 2008 class that could be ranked #1 overall. Rumor has it Thad is a strong recruiter.