Game 24: Michigan at Ohio State Preview

Basics
Who: No. 15 Michigan (17-6, 9-2 B1G) at No. 22 Ohio State (19-5, 6-5 B1G) ohiostate_logo[1]
Where: Value City Arena (Columbus, OH)
When: 9:00 p.m., Tuesday, February 11th, 2014
TV: ESPN | WatchESPN
Radio: MGoBlue, 950 AM, 102.9 FM, 91 Sirius/XM
More:  Notebook | Video | Pick to Click | Podcast | Big Ten Power Rankings

Timing is everything in the Big Ten.  Two weeks ago, Michigan was on top of the league after an 8-0 conference start featuring wins over  Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan State. While the Wolverines sat alone at the top of the standings, Ohio State was just 3-5 and had lost five of its last six games, most recently with a home loss to Penn State.

Since then, Michigan has dropped two games – at Indiana and at Iowa – while Ohio State has reeled off three straight victories including wins on the road at Wisconsin and Iowa. The Buckeyes appear to have weathered the tough times and are looking to close the conference season out strong.

Michigan finds itself in a critical position for its Big Ten title hopes. Losers of two of the last three games, the Wolverines will host Wisconsin and Michigan State after their trip to Columbus. Michigan controls its own destiny in the Big Ten race, but the next two weeks will likely tell the story.

The Buckeyes

Ohio State brought back six of its top eight players from last year’s team, which lost to Wichita State in the Elite Eight, but the Buckeye offense has gone from 11th best in the country to 92nd. That’s primarily because Deshaun Thomas is in France, not Columbus. Thomas wasn’t just Ohio State’s most efficient offensive weapon last season, he also took nearly a third of its shots when he was on the floor.

The Buckeyes are shooting 47.7% on twos (6th) and 35.2% on threes (5th) for a 49.4% effective field goal percentage (6th) in Big Ten games. Scoring just 1.04 points per Big Ten possession (6th), the Buckeyes don’t pack much of a punch on the offensive glass (9th in offensive rebounding) and have struggled with turnovers at times (6th). The Buckeyes turned the ball over on greater than 18% of their offensive possessions in six Big Ten games and lost four of them. The one thing that Ohio State has done very well in conference play is get to the line, attempting 41 free throws per 100 field goal attempts (3rd).

Despite all of the issues on offense, Ohio State is dominant defensively. The Buckeyes are ranked fourth nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency and have the second best in-conference defensive numbers despite losing five games. Turnovers have fueled Ohio State’s defense in conference play. Ohio State opponents have coughed the ball up on a league-best 20.8% of their offensive possessions. The rest of OSU’s defensive numbers show some interesting flaws. The Buckeyes have the best 3-point defense in the league, 28.6% allowed, but are allowing a 51.6% 2-point shooting percentage — the second worst in the Big Ten. Ohio State has also struggled on the defensive glass, allowing conference foes to rebound 32.1% (10th) of their misses.

Personnel

6-foot-8 forward LaQuinton Ross leads the Buckeyes with 14.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. But as he goes, Ohio State’s offense tends to go. He has just a 38.7% effective field goal percentage in losses compared to 50.6% on the season.

Ross is one of the most dangerous pick-and-pop players in the Big Ten, scoring 1.12 points per possession, per Synergy. He pops on 92% of his ball screen possessions, so Michigan should know how to guard him — possibly by switching every ball screen involving Ross.

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He’s also very effective posting up (1.05 PPP, 85th percentile) as well as in simple spot up possessions. The midrange is not his specialty as he’s just 5-of-30 on jump shots inside the 3-point line, but shoots 42% from 3-point range. Forcing him to put the ball on the floor and then shoot is critical.

Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott are two of the most disruptive defensive guards in the country. Scott and Craft rack up more steals than anyone in the Big Ten and are capable of completely taking opposing guards out of the game. When Fran McCaffery was asked why Devyn Marble wasn’t more involved in Iowa’s game against the Buckeyes last week, he had one answer: “They put Craft on Marble.”

But both players have also had their fair share of offensive struggles. Scott recently volunteered to come off the bench to try to jump start Ohio State’s offense, he’s averaging just 8 points per game in Big Ten play and shooting 24% on threes.

Craft runs a lot of ball screens, and is more effective finding his teammates (either rolling to the rim or spotting up on the wing) than he is scoring for himself. He passes the ball on 65% of his ball screen possessions, per Synergy, and has just a 36% eFG% when he keeps the ball in the pick-and-roll.

Lenzelle Smith Jr. is the most efficient player in the Ohio State rotation. He shoots 52% on twos and 38% on threes. The majority of Smith’s production comes off spot ups, but he’s also comfortable using dribble hand offs and screens.

Sam Thompson has moved into the starting lineup in Scott’s place. Thompson is a 6-foot-7 jumping jack with a serviceable (36%) 3-point shot. He only shoots 48% on twos despite his ridiculous athleticism, but is also an above average shot blocker.

Amir Williams and Trey McDonald are Ohio State’s traditional options at the center position, but Thad Matta won’t hesitate to play small ball with Ross at the five. Williams starts and is an imposing presence on both backboards and one of the better shot blockers in the Big Ten. He makes 61% of his 2-point attempts. A third of his offensive possessions are post ups, where he’s effective, and the rest of his production comes from drop off passes, offensive rebounds and rolls to the basket.

McDonald is a rarely used Michigan native that shoot 54% on twos but is just 9-of-28 (32%) from the free throw line this season. Marc Loving and Amedeo Della Valle both will see playing time off the bench. Loving is another versatile combo forward that’s still refining his game while Della Valle, a former Michigan target, is a 3-point shooter. Nearly two-thirds of Della Valle’s field goal attempts are from 3-point range and he’s a much better shooter from the left wing than the right.

Keys

  • Fix the defense:  Michigan’s defense has allowed .998 points per possession or more in 8 of 11 Big Ten games — that’s not good enough to win. For all of the concerns about what Ohio State’s defense will do to Nik Stauskas and Michigan’s offense, the much bigger concern is whether the Wolverines can stop an average, but improving Ohio State offense. The easy baskets that come from OSU misses or turnovers could also spark Michigan’s offense against the otherwise stellar Buckeye defense.
  • Robinson vs. Ross: LaQuinton Ross had a huge game against Michigan in Ann Arbor last season, and this match up of up-and-down stars could be critical. Other individual matchups might draw more attention, but the winner of the four spot seems like a safe bet to win the game.
  • Win on the glass: Michigan has struggled to rebound the ball in Big Ten games. The Wolverines are ranked eighth in the conference in both defensive and offensive rebounding percentage. Ohio State isn’t a great rebounding team, and Michigan will need a better effort on both ends.

Bottom Line

Under John Beilein, Michigan has won at every Big Ten venue other than Value City Arena in Columbus. Ken Pomeroy’s system gives the Wolverines a 33% chance at the upset, projecting a 65-62 Buckeye victory.

  • kam

    I hate 9pm games.. like 6:30 or 7 better haha. But OSU can throw craft or Scott on nik as a small quick defender. He needs to try and shoot over top because he can’t blow by them.. We will need Walton and Caris to take care of the ball bringing it up. Hopefully Irvin continues to be a offensive spark off the bench. I would like 10-14 points from Glenn and great defense. Their missed shots should get him plenty of transition opportunities. GO BLUE

    • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

      Just be glad you don’t have to cover 9 p.m. games…

  • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt
    • Dr_ZC

      Better than their ketchup uniforms from last year. Do we know if Michigan will use their mustard uniforms for the game?

    • JVS

      MSU is 0-2 in their Nike retro rehash unis. Hopefully that trend continues. I’m hoping we bring back the mustard. Hands down my favorites of recent memory. Also, rumor has it that we are going to be wearing the 89s for something either late this season or early next.

  • guestavo

    OSU would be dumb to go small against Michigan with Ross at center….

    • kam

      True, but Morgan couldn’t guard Ross nor could Jon.. so if they can’t get offense going they may have to try it.

      • guestavo

        We wouldn’t have Morgan or Horford on the floor which would help us more than them….

        • kam

          U think JB would put Glenn at center?

          • guestavo

            He has done it before. I’ve been saying Nik should PnR with Glenn/ Irvin because, unlike Morgan or Horford, he can hit the mid range jumpshot, thus making the defender think twice about hard hedging. Ross at center would take their best rebounder out of the lineup (Williams)

          • kam

            that makes sense!! Call JB right now and tell him haha hopefully we get william in foul trouble

          • rlcBlue

            Probably. Despite Ross’s nice numbers on post-ups, I doubt he would do that well taking GRIII down low; LaQ isn’t the chunky Behanon/Ellis/Evans type that Glenn struggles to defend.

            If we did play with no Morford, we could ease up on the P&R and use the full on 5 out/0 in Beilein offense; I wonder how much time Matta has spent prepping for that?

    • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

      If Amir gets in foul trouble the other option is Trey McDonald….

      • guestavo

        Yeah, I understand the logic and hopefully we can get him into foul trouble.

  • guestavo

    Ross is a great pick n pop guy but why aren’t we doing that with Glenn and Irvin?

    • Chris De Sana

      I have asked it many times before and I am told the other team will just switch, which I say is perfect. That is the only way we can get the match ups we want and take advantage of them.

      • guestavo

        It’s mind boggling because PnR with Morford is a one trick pony and all these teams have realized that unless they make it all the way to the rim, they can’t score, thus blitz Nik.

        • Chris De Sana
          • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

            If other teams will hedge the ball screen with the four (like that video).. then it works perfectly. Michigan has done it against a few people.

            Most people play four guards against Michigan and will just switch it though. The mismatch of Gr3 on a 6-foot-5 guy isn’t really a huge mismatch that Michigan can take advantage of.

          • Chris De Sana

            I don’t necessarily disagree with you Dylan but we have to find away to get mismatches that we as a team can attack without doing something similar they simply do not happen.

  • ChathaM

    I expect a similar defensive game plan to that of other teams that have had success; put an excellent, smaller defender (likely Craft) on Nik, and force others to consistently make plays. Caris tends to be able to make plays in these situations, but I believe we’ll need another player to consistently get/make shots to win this game. Maybe that’s Robinson. Maybe that’s Irvin. Maybe it’s Walton.

    Overall, I like the matchup for us, as OSU is not a strong rebounding team, and shouldn’t be able to dominate us on the boards. One of their few offensive strengths is that they get to the line, but we don’t foul.

    Cautiously optimistic…

  • CDR

    Can’t wait for this game. Michigan will need to tighten up its defense against the Buckeyes. Aaron Craft is too good and will expose bad play on the defensive side of the ball.

    CDR
    BlogSurface.com

    • ok

      ok

    • kam

      aaron craft isn’t a good offensive player

      • Russ

        Aaron Craft can score if needed. I have seen him drive and create things often.. We just have to show up and play with the intensity it takes to win on the road in the Big Ten…

  • Guest

    I have to say… I am cautiously optimistic. If Levert plays the way he has been, Michigan will be in good shape. Now, if Irvin can come off the bench and hit a few 3′s that completely changes this one.

    Ohio simply has a pathetic offense, no matter how you cut it. With that being said, if you get a guy like Irvin to come off the bench and hit 2 or 3 timely 3′s, it completely changes the complexion of the game.

    I like our chances. And yes I am over-simplifying this.

    • Dr_ZC

      what I worry with Levert dribbling, is turnovers, since the refs are more likely to allow reach in, slaps on the ball, which are typical of Craft’s defense. If Craft is on Stauskas, then there should be daylight for Levert to dribble drive.

      • guestavo

        LeVert has the same A:T ratio as Nik and Walton. Over his last 5 or so games, he hasn’t had more than 2 TO in game.

        • kam

          People act like he cant dribble and turns it over a ton.

        • Dr_ZC

          As always, coach, you are right. Stats are just stats, Caris can have 4 TOs against a good defensive team, and 0 TOs against an average team, and still average 2 per game. Look at Craft and how many TOs he forces. All it takes is to have Caris take the air out of tha ball, and OSU to clog the lanes, with Craft reaching at the ball.

          • kam

            Well if he can do that to Caris he will do it to NIK.. And since he’s probably going to be on NIK are u worried about Nik dribbling a lot? Caris will probably have lenzelle smith on him. I wouldn’t mind caris attacking that match up.. I also would like to get Nik a lot of catch and shoot opportunities instead of having him try and drive on craft

          • kam

            also id love for craft to clog the lane because then Nik is left wide open at the 3 Pt line haha

          • Dr_ZC

            I would hold the “haha” till the end of the game as he who laughs last, laughs the best. It will be their defense against our offense. Any turnovers on our part, will work against the balance. And let us not forget that OSU can shoot the 3 if they do not have a hand on their face. My main concern is that we do not turn the ball over early in the game, as we want to avoid the buzz-saw we faced last year. If we happen to be ahead at the end of the game, we should expect that OSU will scratch and scrape to force us turn the ball over.

          • guestavo

            Which is why I gave a sample size of the last 5 games and not some average, coach. You also assume Craft will be on LeVert. Make up doomsday scenarios in your head when no recent trends support your concerns. Heck, Nik has been more loose with the ball than Caris these past 5 games.

          • Dr_ZC

            Yes, coach, you have indeed. Against average defensive teams. Now I did not assume that Craft would be on Levert. Read again what I posted. I stated if Craft is on Nik the story is different. And if you talk about recent trends, look at the last 2 away games where we got our clocks cleaned by more than 10 points (third one is tonight). Perhaps these were not doomsday games in your book, but for sure, they were not walk in the park on mine.

          • guestavo

            MSU, Indiana, Iowa…. you point out the “average defenses” in that 5 game stretch? Caris was far from the issue in the last two road game blowouts…

          • Dr_ZC

            Whatever, Guestavo, you are correct again as always. Your opinion is …well respected. Your trend however, is to lose the trees for the forest. This will be my last post on this thread. It is pointless to waste any more bandwidth to your pedantic arguments and drivel. Go blue.

  • rlcBlue

    I have to say I’m not very optimistic. Virtually no practice time since the fiasco in Iowa City and no sign that the adjustments needed to counteract the anti-Stauskas defense are things the team is already familiar with.

    On the plus side, tOSU’s offense is nowhere near Iowa’s class, so we won’t have to put up 90 points to beat them. I suspect it will be a tight, ugly game; but we’ll have a chance to win it late.

    • guestavo

      Iowa beat us up on the glass. I think someone said they played “volleyball” until they got it into the hoop. OSU doesn’t have the capability. I also don’t know who on OSU can go off like Marble or Ferrell? If someone does then we seriously have issues since none of their guys are real primary scorers.

      • rlcBlue

        Smith doesn’t dominate the ball like Marble and Ferrell do, but he’s knocked down 4 threes in each of the Bucknuts’ last two home wins – 4-8 vs. Illinois and 4-7 vs. Purdue; last year he had a 5-7 against Nebraska and 6-11 against Northwestern. He’s certainly capable of getting hot from deep.

        Ross shoots over 40% from deep. Thompson and Craft and Della Valle are all shooting over 35%. I don’t expect any of them to go off, but it wouldn’t be a rain of fishes type of event if one did.

        • guestavo

          I think defensive rebounding is the key for us, Iowa/Indiana literally would brick 3-4 layups until they finally made it. Arizona and FSU did the same thing. The numbers bare that OSU is weak in that area so we have to at least feel good about that…

  • JVS

    I have to say…. Michigan coming off its last 10 losses: 10-0

  • ChathaM

    As a side note, BTN is showing the documentary on the ’89 national championship team at 8:00 pm tonight. You guys have probably already seen it, but I’ve missed it thus far. It’s going to be a 3 hour UM basketball viewing party for me tonight. Hour #1 will be top notch. Hours 2 and 3…cautiously optimistic!

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