Big Ten Tournament: Michigan vs. Ohio State Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
Who: No. 8 Michigan (24-7, 15-3 B1G) vs. Ohio State (25-8, 10-8 B1G) Ohio-State-Logo[1]
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
When: 1:40 p.m., Saturday, March 15th, 2014
Radio: MGoBlue, 950 AM, 1050 AM, XM/Sirius 91
More: Big Ten Tournament Bracket | Illinois coverage

Michigan has never beaten Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament and the Buckeyes have ended Michigan’s last three trips to Indianapolis with a loss.

The Buckeyes have been a dominant force in the Big Ten Tournament, reaching the final in five straight seasons, and as harsh as it sounds, Michigan hasn’t been.

The Wolverines hope the tables have turned this season. Michigan won at Ohio State, Michigan is the team with Thursday bye, Michigan has more projected NBA draft picks and Michigan is the team that dominated the conference regular season.

But the Buckeyes know how to win in Indianapolis and the Wolverines will have their hands full against an Ohio State team that came back from 18 points down to beat Nebraska on Friday afternoon.

Dustin Johnston

The Buckeyes

Despite their struggles in Big Ten play this year, the Buckeyes are still a dominant defensive team. Ohio State has the best defense in the Big Ten by a wide margin. Michigan scored 1.19 points per trip against the Buckeyes in Columbus, the Buckeyes held their opponents to 1.03 points per trip or worse in 15 of their other 17 games.

Ohio State leads the conference in forced turnovers, creating giveaways on 21% of its opponents’ possessions. The Buckeyes are somehow able to force those turnovers without fouling and are ranked third in the conference in free throw rate allowed. Ohio State has been weak on the defensive glass, allowing conference foes to grab 30% of their misses (7th B1G). Michigan rebounded 42% of its misses in the first meeting as Jordan Morgan and Glenn Robinson III combined for 10 offensive boards.

Ohio State is ranked just 125th nationally in offensive efficiency and checks in at 6th in the Big Ten, scoring 1.03 points per trip. The Buckeyes are only the 7th best shooting team in the conference, making 49% of their twos and 32% of their threes. Ohio State turns the ball over on 17% of its possessions (7th B1G) and only grabs 26% of its missed shots. The Buckeyes do a great job of getting to the free throw line and attempted 43 free throws per 100 field goal attempts in Big Ten play.


Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott are one of the best defensive backcourts in the country. They have great hands, play physically and force more turnovers than anyone else in the conference. However, they are also a big reason for Ohio State’s offensive struggles.

Click to Enlarge / Find more shot charts at Shot Analytics

Both players are average finishing at the rim and shoot very few jumpshots. Scott shoots a few more, but has been a below average shooter in league play.  Craft has been essentially just a driver as 74 of his 119 field goal attempts in Big Ten games were at the rim. Michigan played off of him in the first meeting and he had just eight points.

LaQuinton Ross (16.8 ppg) and Lenzelle Smith Jr. (10.1 ppg) are Ohio State’s only double-digit scorers in conference play. Smith shoots a lot of threes, but is most effective from the left corner and with a floater in the lane. Ross loves pick-and-pop triples form the left wing, can score in the paint very effectively, but is inefficient with his mid-range jumper.

Click to Enlarge / Find more shot charts at Shot Analytics

Sam Thompson provides a super athletic offensive option on the wing. He can knock down the occasional three-point jumper, but isn’t a consistent scorer. Amedeo Della Valle had 12 points, six rebounds and three assists off the bench in Ohio State’s win over Nebraska and provides an extra offensive dynamic.

Michigan natives Amir Williams and Trey McDonald split playing time at the five spot. Williams is a great rebounder, but has the tendency to chase shot blocks and pull himself out of rebounding position. Neither player is a great scorer, but both can finish if they catch the ball cleanly down low.


  • Pack it in: Ohio State doesn’t have great shooters and Michigan needs to defend the Buckeyes properly. Focus on walling off the lane, cutting off gaps and taking away easy opportunities. The Wolverines did a pretty good job of this in the first meeting and Ohio State threw up a lot of missed threes.
  • Robinson vs. Ross: Michigan had no answer for LaQuinton Ross in the first meeting (24 points on 8-of-17 shooting) and the Wolverines will need a strong defensive effort from Glenn Robinson III against Ross in the rematch.
  • Don’t turn it over: Turnovers aren’t just a killer to Michigan’s offense, they lead to the easy baskets that Ohio State’s offense needs to survive. Michigan did a great job in the first meeting, giving the ball away on just 15% of its offensive possessions, but will need to be disciplined and strong with the ball against the Buckeye backcourt.

Bottom Line

Ken Pomeroy likes Michigan in a toss-up, projecting a 65-64 Michigan win with a 54% chance of the Wolverines advancing.

  • guestavo

    If I recall, didn’t Robinson grade well against Ross and it was the switches that Ross took advantage of?

  • Russ

    What a game this is going to be. Looking foward to it…

  • Mattski

    Something(s) to play for here: still in line for a one seed with Kansas losing yesterday, and. . . revenge against OSU for many worlds of hurt over the last few years. Beating them in Columbus wasn’t even close to sufficient.

  • mistersuits

    Michigan has a pretty clear cut seeding path at this point: lose today and it’s a 3. Win today and it’s a 2. Win BTT and 50-50 shot at a 1-seed.

    • Cory

      I don’t think we fall below the 2 line even with a loss today.

  • Chezaroo

    Hoping for the best today, it seems as though Louisville is gonna grab the open #1 if they win their tourney though?

    • It’s up for grabs in my opinion. Lunardi was on ESPN saying that it’s Michigan’s or Wisconsin’s if they win the Big Ten Tourney.

      • Chezaroo

        Man that would be some final tomorrow if we make it. High drama no matter who the opponent! Go Blue!!

      • Chezaroo

        High drama tomorrow if we make the final, no matter who the opponent. Great time to be a fan!

  • Chezaroo

    No open thread today?