Feb. 12, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Trey Burke (3) shoots the ball in the first half against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

GBMWolverine: Michigan Basketball -- Ohio State at Michigan -- Preview

Posted at 6:00am — 2/18/2012

GBMWolverine: Michigan Basketball — Ohio State at Michigan — Preview

Schedule of Events Today on TV:

College GameDay
10:00am – 11:00am
DirectTV Channel 208
ESPNU

College GameDay
11:00am – 12:00pm
DirecTV Channel 206
ESPN

College GameDay
8:00pm – 9:00pm
DirecTV Channel 206
ESPN

Michigan Basketball
Ohio State at Michigan
Crisler Arena (Crisler Center) in Ann Arbor, Michigan
9:00pm – 11:00pm
DirecTV Channel 206
ESPN

Big Game Against a Big Team. Six months ago most basketball junkies thought the February Ohio State at Michigan game would be interesting, but no one thought the importance to be past a normal conference game. This is not the game of the year for either team, but the event is far from insignificant.

The importance wanes greatly if Michigan loses, essentially making the Big Ten a two horse race. But if the Wolverines can pull off an upset, the last three weeks become more interesting. Ohio State is in the tournament and the only question left for the Buckeyes is a one-seed or a two-seed. Michigan would need to crap out the rest of the way to retreat to the bubble which we believe they are still in the tournament no matter what happens. Even then the Wolverines are likely in the dance. This game could likely decide who wins the Big Ten regular season.

But Saturday is about effort and will for the Wolverines since the physical and talent match up can be termed a mismatch. Teams have won bringing a knife to a gunfight. But sometimes the team with the gun leaves it at home or finds wet ammunition. Ohio State has run many teams with less talent off the floor this year, but has lost to Illinois and Indiana. Both these teams have sufficient talent; probably more than Michigan, but it was the Buckeye misfires that stoked the upsets.

Feb. 12, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Beilein reacts in the first half against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Can Michigan pull off the win? The answer is yes. Is a Wolverine win most probable? Clearly not is the answer to that question. So what has to happen? Like most games with the Goliath-David tag two things have to happen and both are simple statements. First, Michigan must play very well and second Ohio State has to throw up some blanks.

What must Michigan do to play well? Let us start with strategy. The teams have seen each other often in the last two years, so strategy is about neutralized, few surprises should emerge. Michigan must get off to a great start.

Getting down by 20 like Minnesota on Tuesday will yield the same result. The last time around, Michigan played tough the first half, then the talent and athletic difference took over as Michigan faded a little.

The strategy of how to guard Sullinger will again be discussed. In the past Michigan has tried to bump him, surround him, and irritate him, only to some success. This is a strategy not germane to only Michigan. Whatever can get any of Ohio State’s weapons out of sync will be welcome. The Sullinger gambit comes down to what can be gained and what is given up? If the outside shooting of Buford, Craft, and to a small degree Thomas goes cold the strategy is sound. If not, there is little else to be done.

Michigan will need to decide whether or not to run with the Buckeyes. The answer will probably be when it is to the Wolverine’s advantage, ala Michigan State. Getting into a running game with a team 12 deep in blue-chippers can result in second half destruction. Matta has played more guys lately and the tone of Saturday’s game will probably determine if this trend continues. Again look for Michigan to be selective.

Will Michigan use multiple defenses? This is very possible since the Blue has had one week to prepare. The use of zones and chasers will be to slow down the Ohio State offense and not make it a simple game of athlete on athlete: a game Michigan has little chance at. Certain zones open up the inside, so Michigan needs to beware. Look for Michigan to play mostly man-to-man unless desperation sets into the scene.

The atmosphere is one item Michigan will not need to address. It will start off electric and the team must keep itself and the crowd in the game. Local Columbus media would have one believe Crisler is an absolute snake pit. It might well be Saturday.

Michigan will need to have several scenarios for inside players ready. It will be near impossible for Michigan to guard Sullinger if the whistles are quick. If the whistles are lax, the physical nature of the Buckeyes would provide them with a big advantage.

The problems of defensive preparation continue on the outside with William Buford. The best way to defend Buford is to not let him get off to a fast start. The longer he is cold, the more likely the thermal energy becomes endothermic. Buford will certainly try and get inside early to get some points on the board and provide a boost for further production. His size is a major problem for Michigan.

Guarding Craft is difficult but not impossible. This is a player who brings a lot to the table and every team would delight to have on the roster.

If the physical and size difference is not enough of a disadvantage, Ohio State can throw in Deshaun Thomas, an absolute physical specimen. This may be the toughest size advantage to overcome in the entire five-on-five match-up. This sophomore has clear next level potential.

Well all of the above begs the question what can Michigan do? This team will be mismatched but very well prepared. This team has become more mentally tough, due in large part to Novak and Douglass, aided by an ahead of the curve freshman point guard Trey Burke. Michigan’s best hope may be mental and not physical. If the Wolverine’s can get off to a good start, hang around, and start the Buckeyes to thinking about what could happen, such as at Illinois, then something might happen that could overjoy the followers of Michigan basketball. Could is the operative word in the scenario above. Michigan’s toughness will be tested especially on the boards, where Ohio State will almost certainly have a big edge. Morgan must contribute and to contribute he needs to play with smarts.

Michigan must hit the threes, and there is very little strategy there. Get to the spot and take the treys if wide open. If the shots fall, then Michigan remains in the game. If the threes clank and the threes continue to clack, well then ouch is the result.

On defense, Coach Beilein has probably preached to the choir not to chase and get out of position allowing the Ohio State wings easy access to the basket. If that happens dishes to Sullinger or dunks by the wings will be common.

The prediction at GBMWolvereine in November was somewhere between 18 and 22 wins for the regular season. Hopefully Michigan finds a way to get to 23 and make the prediction “wrong.” The greedy would hope for more than 22 and that is all right as well. But before 23 comes 22, 21, and 20.

Highlight Videos:

ESPN College Basketball GameDay crew discuss Michigan basketball

John Beilein Pre-OSU Presser 2-17-2012

Zack Novak Pre-OSU Presser

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff

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