2010-2011 Season

Game 17: Ohio State at Michigan Preview

Who: Ohio State (16-0) at Michigan (11-5) OhioState_Logo[1]
Where: Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, MI
When: January 12th, 2011, 6:30 PM
Radio: MGoBlue / WWWW 102.9 FM/Sirius 121/XM 141
Pregame Video: Beilein / Players

Three days after losing to the number three team in the nation, Michigan gets the chance to host the number two ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. Ohio State hasn’t looked great in Big Ten play, narrowly escaping upset bids from Iowa and Minnesota, but the Buckeyes are undefeated and have the most talented roster in the Big Ten.

Ohio State is anchored in the middle by a player you might have heard of, Jared Sullinger, perhaps the best player in the country. Sullinger isn’t just big and strong – 6-foot-9 280 pounds – he is extremely skilled with a gamut of post moves. He’s a controlling rebounder, pulling down almost 30% of opponents’ missed shots when he’s on the floor, and he connects on 61% of his two point attempts while getting to the line often.

Sullinger is a tough to handle by himself but the quality and experience of Ohio State’s perimeter players creates a deadly combination. The four guards and wings that play consistent minutes for the Buckeyes all shoot over 37% from three point range: Jon Diebler (50%), David Lighty (46%), Will Buford (37%), and Aaron Craft (38%). With someone like Sullinger in the middle, it’s almost impossible to sufficiently guard the Buckeyes’ perimeter shooting. Diebler, Lighty, and Buford are all 6-foot-5 and taller and also have the ability to take to the rack if defenses overplay the perimeter jumper.

Jared Sullinger Aaron Craft Miami v Ohio State xdTx7pN97_rl[1]

Ohio State won’t hesitate to play four guards but they also have other options down low. Michigan fans are familiar with Dallas Lauderdale as the 6-foot-8 big man was the primary post option for last year’s Buckeye squad. Lauderdale doesn’t provide a lot of skill but he’s a strong rebounder that can dunk the ball. Freshman Deshaun Thomas is only playing 17 minutes per game but the 6-foot-6 230 pound forward can score the ball efficiently, averaging 11 points per contest. Thomas is productive in the paint (60%) on twos but has yet to find his perimeter stroke and is just 9 of 35 (26%) from three point range.

Despite just a seven man rotation, it’s not surprising that Ohio State’s individual talent yields an impressive statistical profile at the macro level. The Buckeyes shoot the ball well with an effective field goal percentage of 57% — 55% on twos and 40% on threes — and they hold onto the ball. Despite rarely missing from the field, Ohio State also rebounds 38% of its missed shots. The only blemish on the Ohio State statistical profile is that the Buckeyes don’t get to the line often.

Ohio State’s defensive philosophy has been well documented: force turnovers without fouling. Theoretically it makes perfect sense, in reality it’s hard to fathom how the Buckeyes do it so well. Ohio State ranks 6th in turnovers forced as opponents turn the ball over on 27% of their possessions. The Buckeyes also give up the lowest ratio of free throws in the country with a free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of just 21%. Ohio State’s defensive rebounding and field goal percentage defense aren’t half bad as they complete the total package, which ranks 4th nationally.

I’m sure everyone remembers the Big Ten Tournament loss last season but I don’t think it’s crazy to say this Ohio State team is better. They are deeper, have a true post presence, more experience, and they defend better. And, by my eyes, they have the best college basketball in the country for the second year in a row.

If you are John Beilein trying to gameplan for this game I’m not sure where you start. Doubling the post worked against a team like Oakland that isn’t lethal from three point range. With the type of shooters than Ohio State has it basically takes the double team out of the equation. Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford just don’t have the size, athleticism, and experience to handle a guy like Sullinger on the block. I suspect Michigan will do its best to front the post but Sullinger is going to get his share of points. The keys for Michigan to have a chance are: perimeter defense and defensive rebounding.

William Buford Jon Diebler Ten Basketball 5Bb_9JfFdYvl[1]

Perimeter defense versus Ohio State breaks down into two succinct tasks. Jon Diebler warrants individual attention and someone needs to stick to him like glue, fighting through the various off ball screens and set plays that Ohio State will run to get him open looks from long range. The second key is stopping the penetration ability of Lighty, Buford, and Craft. Morris and Hardaway seem likely to guard Buford and Lighty while Stu Douglass has typically been Michigan’s best off ball defender over the last several years, especially guarding shooters.

Taking care of business on the defensive class will be tough, as Ohio State is arguably bigger, stronger, and more athletic at every position. However, Michigan fans can take solace in the fact that the Wolverines are actually the second best defensive rebounding team in the Big Ten – both in both conference games and overall. Against a strong offensive rebounding team like Ohio State, something has to give so this will be a battle to watch.

This will be Michigan’s fourth game versus a Pomeroy top 10 team in the last five games, so you can certainly say the Wolverines are battle tested. Unfortunately, close games and moral victories haven’t resulted in victories which makes it tough to get a read on this team mentally. Can Michigan finally put everything together and rebound, defend, and knock down shots for 40 minutes? Or will Ohio State’s talent be too much. Pomeroy’s numbers predict another loss, 67-57, and give Michigan a 12% chance at victory.

Three predictions:

  • Michigan attempts to play Sullinger straight up and Morgan, Horford, and McLimans all end up battling foul trouble throughout the game.
  • Stu Douglass gets out his shooting slump (0 for his last 9 from three) and connects on three or more triples.
  • Ohio State rebounds over 35% of its missed shots for what ends up being Michigan’s worst defensive rebounding performance of the season.

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