Preview: Michigan at #1 Ohio State

By Luke Zimmermann on February 3, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Triple double, though many assists. /'Yeezy (only kinda) taught me (TFJ
Ohio State Buckeyes#1 Ohio State 22-0, 9-0 Big Ten Roster | Schedule 7:00 PM ET - ESPN —— The Schott Columbus, OH Michigan WolverinesMICHIGAN 13-9, 3-6 Big Ten Roster | Schedule

War. War never changes. Or does it? The war has changed. Did it? The answer is no. Unless it is yes. No, of course it is. It's war. Yes. No. Yes?

Ohio State's 176 year campaign against the hostiles from up north rages on, this time returning to the comfortable confines of Value City Arena. Sure, Ohio State's last two encounters with the scourge of the midwest have been a bit close for comforts. A 37-footer and narrow 4-point road escape certainly constitute as that. However, without a crowd fired up by the arrival of a new head coach (Jim Tressel was invited to be fired and then rehired for the occasion but declined) and with Michigan coming off a mercurial 14-28 (50% for the math majors amongst us) from deep shooting performance against Iowa begging to regress to the mean, I am here to suggest that perhaps this contest may lack the civility and cordialness of the semblance of being as competitive as its predecessors. There is only so much damn that can be given about the whole state of Michigan, and that amount is none.

Michigan will seek to be spoilers heading into what should be a cabin fever recovering Buckeyes home crowd. The benefits of the long overdue student section reorganization will be tested early and often with the greatest threat to our very way of lives ending their 2k10/2k11 engagement after this second of two meetings. The Wolverines enter this one with the second worse efficiency margin (which is summed by taking a team's points per possession and subtracting its opponents') in the Big Ten during conference play recording a paltry -.09. Heading into games Tuesday, this puts them in the same class as lowly NC State, paltry Iowa State, and renowned hardwood blasphemers Oregon in their respective conference play bodies of work. It merrits mentioning, however, that juggernaut beaters Ole Miss and Duke killers St John's hold claim to an identical efficiency margin mark. While the Buckeyes are the class of the Big Ten entering play showcasing a +.14 margin themselves, isolated one off events like 40 minutes of basketball between two hated rivals are prone to produce their fair share of irregularities and aberrations.

44 William Buford 13.5 3.9 3.2 G 10 Tim Hardaway Jr. 11.8 3.9 1.4
33 Jon Diebler 11.3 2.2 2.6 G 4 Dairius Morris 15.4 3.7 7.2
23 David Lighty 12.4 3.9 3.5 G 0 Zack Novak 9.9 6.0 1.4
0 Jared Sullinger 18.0 9.9 1.4 F 52 Jordan Morgan 8.5 5.5 0.6
52 Dallas Lauderdale 4.5 3.9 0.2 F 23 Evan Smotrycz 6.5 2.5 0.8


Michigan enters this one on a personal high note having defeated in-state B-rival Michigan State, 61-57, last Thursday on the road and polishing off dessert by feasting on Fran McCaffery's plucky Iowa Hawkeyes, 87-73. However the subsequent result of those two opponents playing one another has taken away much of the luster retroactively. Before that, the Wolverines road the coat tails of a fancy 6 game losing streak which included 2 much coveted "quality losses" to now #2 Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse and Episode 1 of tOSU/UM 2K11. That streak also included a, let's say, not so quality L at the hands of Indiana, a 19 point smackdown in Bloomington. They followed that bad boy up with a rather dower 14-point defeat at the hands of Northwestern in Evanston. Excelsior!

So what has ol Blue done right since then? Most notably shoot the living s--- out of the ball. In their last two wins, the Wolverines have successfully converted 56 of their 102 shot attempts (good for almost 55% from the field) and also 25-of-52 from beyond the arc (equating to around 48%). Is this likely to continue? Perhaps if Ohio State elects to play defense with either five luxury office chairs of a Multiplicity lineups of all Kosta Kofouses. Ohio State enters this one with an 86.1 adjusted defensive efficiency rating (adjusted defensive efficiency is points allowed per 100 defensive possessions, adjusted for the quality of the opposing defenses, the site of each game, and when each game was played (recent games are weighted more heavily). That ranks the Buckeyes as the fifth best defensive side in the country. Newton's law of gravity aside, Ohio State realistically will not present the same crowd-at-a-Best-Coast-concert defensive approach shared by Michigan State and Iowa against the Wolverines.

So how per say specifically did John Beilein win the heart of a handsome admirer tugging on his heart strings while he was still homely as part of an ill-spirited wager but prove he was actually rather becoming all along despite looking like a nerd two consecutive contests after losing so many? Many parts slump busting offensive supernova extraordinaire Darius Morris and a few parts former 2KSports Delusion College Hoops 2K10 cover star Zach Novak. Novak has long been heralded by even the laziest observer as Michigan's ACOG scope equipped Enfield. Though Morris's emergence, particularly in the context of their most recent victories, has arguably really been the story. Against Sparty in Breslin, Morris stayed on the floor for all 2400 seconds of game time while convering 7-of-10 attempts from the field (including both attempts from the land of milk-and-an-extra point) totaling 17 points while also setting up his teammates on 8 different occasions. The swan song against the Hawkeyes was more "Black Swan", sans talking paintings and his perfection culminating in self-booked tickets to go meet the majority (not that majority). Morris captivated hippie admirers afar and teammates alike scoring a dozen points, grabbing 10 boards, and dishing 11 assists in a performance the Hollywood Reporter called "spell binding." Novak, not to be unnoticed, put up 19 and 13 in the W's.

While over 28% of Michigan's total culminate through Morris, Tim Hardaway Junior is second on the team using roughly 24% of the team's possessions. In an attempt to do, well this, Hardaway has quietly put together a turnover efficiency rate amongst the nation's best ball handlers, checking in at 28th best nationally with a 9.7 turnovers divided by possessions percentage. It's also important to not understate the importance of Jordan Morgan. Morgan will likely have the unenviable task of keeping Jared Sullinger at bay for the better part of the evening. JaJuan Johnson put up 22 and grabbed 8 boards when Michigan and Purdue met en route to a 23 point Boilermakers victory back in late December. In other words, good luck with that.

Buckeye Breakdown 

Ohio State found the bulk of their success against the Wolverines in their first meeting primarily relying on the marksmanship of Wil Buford and Jon Diebler. Buford scored 19 on 6-for-13 shots from the field while Diebler was good for his usual minimum 3 long balls adding 9. David Lighty had the most success of driving to the hoop amongst his teammates ultimately taking 13 field goals and converting 6 of those in route to an understated 12 points. Jared Sullinger was rather quiet given his usual standards of excellence but did ultimately contribute 12-and-7 to the cause. Sullinger asserting himself early as the physical presence we know he's capable of being will ultimately open up better, more additional outside looks for the likes of Diebler, et al. Should the Buckeyes find themselves the benefactor of another rare double digit scoring effort from Aaron Craft as happened in A^2, Ohio State should feel rather confident about their ultimate chances for the victory.

Ohio State ranks amongst the nation's elite at adjusted offensive efficiency (similar to the aforementioned defense; points scored per 100 possessions adjusted for the factors already touched on) checking in as the nation's second best offense behind only Pitt (and by a hair at that; 121.3 to 121.7 respectively). Putting the ball in the hoop should all but be a given with the likes of Sullinger and Diebler, who somewhat surprisingly ranks third amongst all scorers (percentage of possessions ignored) nationally. Perhaps the only factor Ohio State doesn't do at an elite level is get to the line relative to how many field goals they take. To compare the relative strengths/weaknesses of the offensive side of the ball:

  • Effective Field Goal %: 56.8 (6th in the nation)
  • Turnover %: 16.4 (5th)
  • Offensive Rebound Percentage: 35.8% (65th)
  • FTA/FGA: 35.3 (236th)

The last is the most glaring and surprising, though given the type of inside-to-setup-out identiy this group often embraces and the lack of a pure slashing 2/3 the way a number of NBA style offenses approach scoring the ball, it shouldn't be the most outrageous thing in the world this group is relatively unspectacular from a free throw rate perspective.

Despite the too-close-for-comfort chess tournament in Evanston last weekend, look for Matta's bunch to be back in a comfort zone in the comfy confines of C-Bus and avoiding the perils of the road if but for another 40 minutes. If all other factors hold constant from the first affair but Sullinger performs closer to his ordinary standards, Ohio State should not only prevail but push the double digit threshold for margin of victory.


  • A victory would mean Ohio State's 23-0 mark would supplant the 1961-62 side leaving only the '60-61 group's 27-0 start to catch in an effort to make the claim of greatest Ohio State men's basketball team of all-time.
  • When ranked in the AP Top 25, Ohio State is 30-5 all-time against Michigan. A win would up Thad Matta's career total to 13-2 against the Wolverines.
  • The man upstairs says no quarter. Beat Michigan.
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