BTT Semifinals: Michigan vs. Ohio State Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
Who: Ohio State (30-2) vs. Michigan (20-12) images[1]
Where: Conseco Field House, Indianapolis, IN
When: 1:40 PM ET, Saturday, March 12th
Radio: MGoBlue / WTKA 1050 AM
More: Big Ten Tournament Bracket / Quarterfinal Coverage

With the short turnaround and early tip off, you’ll have to settle for an abbreviated game preview. For more on Ohio State, make sure to read all of our stories from the first two games. The Buckeyes are good, likely the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, but enter this game off a near upset scare versus Northwestern.

If you’ve paid any attention to college basketball this season, you know that Ohio State is talented. You know about Jared Sullinger, the overpowering freshman post player that willed Ohio State to victory over Northwestern by making 16 of 18 free throws. You also know about his experienced and talented supporting cast. David Lighty is one of the strongest guards in the league and will outmuscle just about anyone on either end of the floor. Will Buford can slash to the basket but also has a potent jumper while Aaron Craft is one of the best defensive point guards in the league. Add in Jon Diebler, who makes over half of his triples including a 17-20 stretch recently, and you have a complete, experienced and talented team.


There’s a reason that Ohio State has only lost two games this year – at Wisconsin and at Purdue – and they will be extremely tough to beat. If Michigan wants to strike upset gold, the Wolverines need to figure out how to negate what Ohio State does best. That means winning the free throw battle. Ohio State gets to the line more often than any other team in the league but also allows fewer free throw attempts than any other team. That sounds simple enough but Michigan ranks last in the Big Ten at getting to the line and 7th at keeping opponents off the line. Ohio State has an athleticism advantage at almost every position across the board which will makes things very difficult for Michigan.

There are a couple other areas where Michigan can be successful in this game. First off, the Wolverines need to hold onto the ball. Ohio State forces more turnovers than any other Big Ten team but Michigan has shown the ability to value the basketball and will need to cut down on the lapses in focus and bad passes. Michigan has done a much better job limiting opponents shooting percentages in the second half but will have it hands full with Ohio State’s Big Ten best 57.5% effective field goal percentage – 52.3% on twos (2nd), 45.2% on threes.

The first two match-ups are interesting because Michigan had half of the puzzle figured out in each game. In the first game, Michigan scored the ball efficiently but could never get stops. It was the fifth best offensive performance against the Buckeyes this year. In the second game, Michigan defended Ohio State extremely well, holding the Buckeyes to a 3rd-worst .98 points per trip of offensive production, but couldn’t score. To upset the Buckeyes in Indianapolis, it will take a perfect game on both ends of the floor. Michigan has proven that they can do it on each end, but now it’s time to put it all together.

Pomeroy likes Ohio State by a score of 71-60 and gives Michigan just an 11% chance at pulling the upset. It would take a near-perfect performance out of this team, but given the way they are playing now, it’s fair to say they have a puncher’s chance. An upset this afternoon would mean that Michigan would play for the Big Ten title against a team it swept in the regular season: Michigan State or Penn State.

  • Brian W

    The old theory is that it’s hard to beat a team three straight during a season. It’s Michigan’s turn to take a game from OSU… Evan Smotrycz could play a role in winning today’s game. He did well guarding Sullinger when Morgan got into foul trouble before and made Sullinger have to play defense farther away from the hoop… I don’t think OSU is going to shoot over 90% from three in the game, like they did against Wisconsin last weekend.

    The News-Herald has a decent interview with former U-M center Eric Riley. Didn’t realize that he won an NBA championship ring with the Rockets…

    Would be interesting to see if Brady Hoke would let this kid, Zach Banner, play basketball if he picks U-M. He’s 6’9″ and 310 pounds. Zach has an offer from Michigan (and others) and says that he wants to play football and basketball in college.

  • lordfoul

    Time for a three point barrage. This team can beat anyone when the shots are falling from deep.

    And don’t let Diebler shoot dammit! Go Blue!

  • Jon

    My major concern is Aaron Craft on defense. The last game vs. OSU it seemed like he really struggled against Craft. Hope it’s better today. Anyone have any ideas about how what UM has to do to deal with this?

    • Jon

      *He being D-Mo

    • Oopers

      I agree! If D-mo can win this matchup it will mean good things for this game!

  • Kool Breeze

    Dylan, we doing click to pick for the bucks?

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Sorry — short turnaround might not be fair, especially because I wouldn’t have had the post up until now. My mistake. We’ll do the finals if we make it.

  • THJR

    We need to stick to their shooters and box out. If we can do that we will have a shot. I’d give it to Morgan early and try to get Sullinger in foul trouble.

  • Alex

    We’ll blow through them like we did MSU! Go blue!

  • Moe1989

    It seems playing michigan offence is better when they try and speed it D mo drive inside pass novak swing to Thj for 3! all day!!! Go Blue!!

  • Alex

    The team has house money for this game. Nothing to lose and everything to gain. Come out focused and with the attitude that if Northwestern can take OSU to overtime, then we can beat these guys. Keep believing.

  • Azad

    Off topic-I know we didn’t play well but was there any reason why our loss to UTEP was looked upon so poorly this season? They have been a pretty solid squad all year and could be punching their ticket to the dance very soon.

    • billiam

      Well, because Tim Hardaway Senior went to UTEP and Jr came here. Now, you’d figure that a kid who is 18 with NBA talent would be able to beat his dad’s OLD (pun intended) team. – attempt at a joke.

      Seriously, I think it’s more the fact that they weren’t supposed to be this good so when people predicted their FINAL standings they predicted this to be a bad loss. Think about it this way: even though WE are a good team, people thought we’d be…bad…so when Spartie lost to us the first time that was viewed as a bad loss for them too.

      In the end, it’ll sort itself out as people play the games and the misconception of how bad UTEP is fades through their wins. It was a prognostication of a bad loss, and anyone who still says it’s a bad loss doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

  • Fred_Ex

    Today I think we need to box out like others have suggested but, that’s something you do every game. For me I think the key to victory is on offense. THJ needs more shots (opporunities) from three, that kid is hot. And for defense we really need to hope the refs swallow the whistle and let the boys play. The amount of fouls Jared Sullinger gets (and especially yesterday against NW) is obvious and I think if you’re going to blow the whistle everytime he misses a shot then you should call him for every violation he makes on offense or call him for blocking fouls when he muscles players inside. On that note, I really would like to make a comment about Ed Hightower and how he should probably join the officials in the Big East. I would really hate it if we lost this game like NW did by the refs blowing whistles without discretion in what IMO almost appeared to be a desire/purpose to get Ohio State back in the game.

    • evan

      the 3 by marcotullio was actually after the shot clock went off so i dont think they were trying to get osu back in the game on purpose

  • Devin

    Something to watch for this afternoon: Ohio State played overtime yesterday, in which Sullinger played ALL 45 minutes. Keep an eye oh his effort and how tired he’ll be today. Morgan had a terrible game yesterday, Im looking for him to exploit Sullinger’s fatigue. If Morgan can catch Sullinger being lazy, he’ll have a huge game.