Big Ten Preview: Michigan Wolverines at Ohio State Buckeyes

By Chris Katje
USA TODAY Sports-Greg Bartram

The Michigan Wolverines are looking to post their best college basketball record in team history. Standing in their way is the Ohio State Buckeyes, who currently rank number 15 in the nation in the latest Top 25 poll. The game is one of several Big Ten games this season with two nationally ranked teams.

Both teams rank in the top 65 for four major categories: points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game and field goal percentage. Ohio State ranks in the top 50 in points (75.9, 47th) and rebounds (38.9, 43rd). Michigan’s highest rankings come in points, where it ranks 10th with 80.8 points per contest, and field goal percentage, where the team shoots .514 (4th).

Ohio State will be looking to slow down Michigan and their fast paced athletic guards. Michigan has four players who all average over 10 points and has a rotation of 11 players. This was one of my main reasons I think the Wolverines can win the NCAA National Championship. Ohio State’s head coach Thad Matta will also have to decide whether or not to guard Nik Stauskas on the three point line. Stauskas, a freshman for the Wolverines, ranks first in the NCAA with a three point field goal percentage of .523.

Michigan will be looking to slow down Deshaun Thomas, who leads the Big Ten in scoring with 20.3 points per game. Thomas also averages 6.8 rebounds per game, which leads the Buckeyes. The next highest scorer on Ohio State is Lenzelle Smith Jr with 10.7 points, so Michigan will definitely be focusing on Thomas. In three games against the Wolverines last season, Thomas had 12, 25 and 22 points. Surprisingly enough, the 25 point effort was in Ohio State’s loss to the Wolverines. With its depth, Michigan will rotate in fresh bodies to stop Thomas and will look to keep him off of the offensive glass and frustrate him.

For Michigan’s Trey Burke, the match-up against the Buckeyes remains personal. Burke, a Columbus, Ohio native, was not recruited by the Buckeyes. Michigan is more than happy they recruited Burke, who decided to stay at Michigan despite being a potential first round pick after last year’s stellar freshman season. Burke scored 13, 17 and 5 points in three games vs. Ohio State last year. The game against the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Tournament saw Burke post a season high eight turnovers to go along with his five points.

In my Big Ten predictions, I have Michigan winning the conference with a 16-2 conference record. My prediction for Ohio State is a 13-5 conference record, which I had putting them in third place in the Big Ten standings. Michigan has a 3-0 record in the Big Ten and has done it in impressive fashion. Ohio State is 2-1 in conference play, after a blowout loss to Illinois.

Michigan has only beat one ranked team (North Carolina State) and needs to get some quality wins against the ranked Big Ten teams to solidify their spot in the National Championship contention. A loss would not only ruin Michigan’s season, but hopefully prepare them for the strong teams they are going to face in the Big Ten. Ohio State is one of three ranked opponents the Wolverines take on in their next four games. Ohio State’s three loses have all came against ranked teams.  Look for the Wolverines to make a statement so they can get the number one spot in the polls for the first time since the 1992-1993 season.

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