Game 23: Michigan at Ohio State Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
Who: Michigan (13-9) at Ohio State (22-0) images[1]
Where: Value City Arena, Columbus, Ohio
When: 7 P.M., Thursday, February, 3rd, 2011
Radio: MGoBlue / WWWW 102.9 FM
Previous Meeting: Game 17: OSU at Michigan (L 68-64)

It’s hard to write previews without focusing too much on the most recent couple of games. It’s just as hard to muster optimism during a losing streak as it is to get carried away with the notion of momentum after a couple wins. Momentum means something, you’d rather go into a game playing good basketball, but its importance is dramatically overblown. 22 games into the season, it’s safe to say that teams have built up sufficient resumes to judge their entire body of work. Michigan heads to Columbus tonight with momentum after a pair of wins but the reward is a match-up with the nation’s consensus No. 1.

The simple two step recipe hasn’t changed for the Buckeyes. Step 1: Give the ball to Jared Sullinger on the block and watch him work. Step 2: Kick it out to the stable of talented wing players and let them shoot it. It’s easy to game plan when you have one of the top three players in the nation and it’s even easier when you have four players that shoot over 40% from three point range to surround him.

UM_OSU_Sullinger-thumb-300x417-67105[1]bilde[1]Michigan's Evan Smotrycz, left, tries to keep Ohio State's Jared Sullinger from getting around him during first half action of the Wolverine's 68-64 loss to Ohio State, Wednesday night, January 12th at UM's Crisler Arena  Lon Horwedel |

Three weeks ago, Michigan hung with Ohio State for forty minutes in a game that featured six lead changes and five ties. Michigan stuck around in that game because of its ability to match Ohio State’s offense. Michigan actually out-shot Ohio State that day, shooting 59% on twos and 46% on threes. If the Wolverines want to win at Value City Arena, it’s going to take more than hot shooting. Ohio State’ offense has been nearly unstoppable and Michigan would need to stop an offense that’s rarely been slowed down this season.

Ohio State’s offense is averaging 1.15 points per possession in conference play, a figure that’s tied for second best in the league. Ohio State is the best shooting team in the conference, with a 58% effective field goal percentage – 53% on twos and 45% on threes –  Michigan is a close second at 55%. Despite the nation’s sixth best turnover rate, Ohio State has turned the ball over more often than six other teams in conference play. Ohio State didn’t get to the free throw line very often in non-conference play but have posted the second best free throw rate, 43% (FTA/FGA), in conference games. The Buckeyes only rebound 30% of their misses, which ranks 8th in Big Ten play, but offensive rebounding isn’t that important when you make so many shots.

Defensively, Ohio State’s philosophy remains the same: force turnovers and don’t foul. Ohio State allows the fewest free throws in the league with a free throw rate of just 24%. They also turn opponents over more often than every Big Ten team but Iowa. (Coincidentally, the Hawkeyes don’t foul either, ranking 2nd in FTR allowed and 1st in forced turnovers.) The Buckeyes shooting defense and defensive rebounding are both above average and the Buckeyes have the second best three point defense in the league.


We’ve already covered Ohio State with the first preview, so here’s your bulleted personnel run-down.

  • Jared Sullinger: Talented low post scorer has great footwork and knows how to use his body with his back to the basket. Sullinger rarely turns it over (six of his 13 turnovers in Big Ten play were versus Michigan), is the conference’s best defensive rebounder, and lives at the free throw line.
  • David Lighty: Senior guard has played in a Final Four, five years go. Not only a talented defender, Lighty is also an efficient scorer that can shoot from the perimeter (44% 3fg) or slash to the basket. Lighty’s only weakness might be at the free throw line where he shoots just 64%.
  • William Buford: 6-foot-5 with athleticism to spare, Buford is actually having a bit of a down year. He dominated Michigan in the first half last time around, scoring 14 of his 19 points.
  • Aaron Craft: Freshman point guard has a wealth of options to distribute the ball and is also a capable three point shooter (44%). Most impressively, Craft has turned himself into a lockdown defender thanks to tremendous lateral quickness.
  • Jon Diebler: 48% three point shooter also shoots 57% when he occasionally ventures inside the arc.
  • Dallas Lauderdale: Senior big man does three things: start, rebound, and block shots. Lauderdale played a season low 7 minutes versus Michigan the last time around, as Ohio State needed a more nimble option to guard Michigan’s four man on the perimeter.

Ohio State forces you to pick your poison. Last time around, Michigan focused all of its efforts on Jared Sullinger and was relatively successful, holding Sullinger to 12 points on 4 of 6 shooting with six turnovers. The drawback to doubling Sullinger is that it allows Lighty, Buford, Craft, and Diebler plenty of wide open three point looks — connecting on 7 of 14 three point looks last time around. If you are Michigan, without a true dominant defensive big man, you have to double Sullinger and hope for the best.

Ohio State’s statistical profile has fewer holes than any other team that Michigan will face this season. After winning their first two conference home games by three points each, Ohio State has dismantled Iowa (22 pts) and Purdue (23 points) at home. Pomeroy projects a 17 point Ohio State victory and gives Michigan a 4% chance at victory – less than a third of the chance Michigan had at winning in East Lansing.

  • KAB

    Just hang around,stay with in stricking distance and you never know…


  • Alex

    Stranger things have happened but as Pomeroy says he odds are low.

  • mgocanada

    You forgot DeShaun Thomas. Anyway, I think we use the exact same strategy as last time: shut down Sullinger and hope that Diebler misses a few. Play Horford more, at the same time as Morgan. Hope Sully can match Morgan foul-for-foul. Keep Craft from taking flops and then smirking like he got away with murder. Get some heroic play on both ends from Novak and Tim Hardaway. Stick to Diebler like glue but do not under any circumstances foul him behind the arc. Make Buford and Lighty beat us the old fashioned way. Oh, and JB: when we’re up three and Thad’s in full red-face mode, don’t let him take all the calls… get in a ref’s face or two.

    UM by 1 in an upset that makes Dylan mention the NCAA tournament for once, albeit in a guarded tone backed up by tons of ominous sounding probability statistics. Priceless.

    PS: remember, A Big 10 top-tier road win counts for three Big 10 home wins, so we’re easily in better shape than “lucky” PSU or Indiana.

    • Nick

      Yeah, too bad our Sparty win is looking worse by the day.

      Gotta hope for a run like 6-3 (9-9 overall), finish 6th in the B1G so we (should) have an easy 1st round tourney game, followed by a winnable second game, and avoiding OSU/Purdue until at least Saturday if not Sunday.

  • Chris

    Sing “Party in the USA” in a falsetto at Craft while you’re at it. Man, that was the worst thing I’ve ever heard.

    • GoBlue

      quote from Diebler about Party in the USA… that’s my jam bro

  • Mattski

    This strategy devised by the assistants–to let the bigs block out and everyone else get rebounds–has paid some benefits so far, I assume that they stick with it tonight?

  • gpsimms

    my predictions:

    Sullinger finishes 0-15, because Jon Horford sets a big ten record for blocked shots in a game with 25.

    Craft sets a record for getting his face shattered by Darius Morris’ seven face shattering dunks.

    We continue the good shooting in conference…

    But Lighty scores 30 and Buford scores 25 and Diebler scores 15, all shooting around 50% from three. Dallas Lauderdale also continues his league leading streak of intimidating baldness.

    OSU 85 – M 83, 3OT

  • steve

    Dylan and others what is ur take on msu’s team? NCAA worthy?

    Anyways I hope we can shock the world and win tonight

    • Tweeter

      No, not NCAA worthy. AS of right now the only way they get in is on reputation alone. They have almost no quality wins and the ones they have: two were in conference at home and the other was neutral court against WAshington. Plus you gotta just look at how they have played in their games. They have been uncompetitive in several games against good teams and now a game against a terrible team in Iowa. Not to mention they should have lost three other conference games. They need to make a big time run over the last month and probably get a win over OSU to have a good outlook on their chances.

      • Beast1530

        I consider Washington as a quality win.

  • Kenny

    it has to be the same game plan, taking away their inside threat, try to get some cheap fouls from Sullinger, and challenge their parameter guys to beat us. When it comes to who makes more 3 pts, we stand a chance. The idea of having bigs block out and sending guards for rebounding is brilliant, taking advantage of the size of our guards, and protect Morgan and Smot from foul troubles.

  • tyler

    dont get me wrong. I think sullinger is a beast, and probably the best player in the conference, but man those officals sure aren’t hurting him either. Every game I watch I see him getting questionable fouls, and the two at the end of the game in the AA game killed us. I guess that’s just the nature of the nba and college basketball. Superstar get benefit of the doubt nearly every time.

    • Mattski

      Yes, if Morgan gets into foul trouble early it could be a long night.

  • JimC

    I hate buckeyes.

  • Section13Row15

    Washington isn’t even a tournament team right now according to the bracketology link Dylan sent out the other day. I have nothing but respect for the MSU basketball program but it’s fun to watch them struggle right now. The looks on their faces is priceless.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Washington is definitely a quality win and they are pretty much an NCAA lock.

      Wisconsin also qualifies as a quality win.

  • skitchbeatz

    Anything can happen. We’ve shown improvement over our last two games. Go Blue.

  • YpsiTuckyBoy

    Dylan, it’s probably worth noting that the game is on ESPN3 as well as ESPN.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Thanks… Everyone read this so you don’t have to ask for a stream :-)

      • Mort

        Any stream for those of us wretches who don’t have cable or access to espn3? Thanks in advance.

  • GoBlue1980

    We ended the losing streak against the Spartans, hopefully we can end the losing streak against the Buckeyes tonight.

    • Beast1530

      2 game losing streak (3 if you count Big 10 tournament) against OSU. It’s not some long losing streak since Michigan beat OSU last year.

  • KAB

    I wonder when the last time we won at OSU was?

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      2003 I think.

  • YpsiTuckyBoy

    Don’t know if you guys saw this, but has Darius Morris going 38th to the Indiana Pacers in the 2011 draft. I hope he’ll stay for another two years, sure up his outside shot and left hand dribble, and move up to lottery status for 2013.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Wow. Draft Express has him as the #12 sophomore and #72 overall.

      • YpsiTuckyBoy

        That’s what drafting on potential will do for you. But it’s tough to turn down a quick 6’4″ PG. You can’t teach that combo.

        • Beast1530

          He’s a solid athlete and he gets by defender with his length and moves. Quickness isn’t his game like Rondo, Wall, Westbrook, etc. They all are freakishly quick even as a PG.

    • Polisci

      Don’t they know that Beilein can’t recruit or produce NBA talent?

      • ToBlav


  • KAB

    Wow I did not know that DMO was thought of that highly yet!I hope he stays…

    • JimC

      Thanks I’m stressed out now: DMo might leave early?!
      squash the rumor before it gets around

      • Dylan Burkhardt

        Don’t think there’s any real reason to believe Darius would leave early. For now, he’s just a guy on the radar.

    • Jeff

      There are a million mock drafts out there. I’m sure that is by far the most optimistic of them. He’s starting to get mentioned late on people’s top-100 lists, which is still an awful long way from a good shot at the first round.

      • Kenny

        Morris going pro after his 3rd year is a real possibility especially if we have a good 2011-2012 season. Losing D-mo Stu Novak In the same year is going to be a tough transition. But this would tremendously help on the recruiting end.

        • Beast1530

          Yup, you’re better off going pro after your junior year as opposed to senior year because your stock will almost never change unless you regress. You make money sooner rather than later. This is part of the reason why Manny Harris decided to go pro despite many fan’s objections.

  • Jimmy

    Courtney Sims and DeShawn Sims both made the NBA D-League All-Star game.

    Peedi is the second youngest All-Star. Joe Alexander, whom Beilein coached at WVU, joins them.

    Congrats to each of them. It’s a nice step towards making an NBA roster.

    • Jeff

      Great to hear. I’d love to see Sims make an NCAA roster after his bad experience in Europe.

      • Tweeter

        think he used up all his eligibility already but would love to have him back :)

        • Jeff