GBMWolverine: Michigan Basketball — Ohio vs. Michigan — NCAA Tournament — Preview
There will be no need to use the word state this week when the original public university in the Northwest Territories, Ohio University (founded 1804) plays Michigan (founded 1817, kinda). Ohio University is located in the magnificent hills of Southeast Ohio in the small, but true, college town of Athens. The school is an original member of the MAC and, like Miami, has been a conference bedrock over the decades. Basketball, baseball, football, track, swimming, and golf have rich histories in previous decades. Currently, the football and basketball teams have ascended back to the top of mid major competition.
Miami has been called the “cradle of coaches” but Ohio University never had a chance for that claim as legendary coaches of the past stayed in Athens for decades. Coach Bill Hess took the football Bobcats to a great decade in the 1960’s. Coach Jim Snyder won many basketball titles and made some NCAA runs when only a few teams could compete for basketball titles. Coach Bob Wren was one of the most storied coaches in college baseball history and a hall of famer. His 1970 team made the final four in baseball and beat Southern California. After Kent State, Ohio, like many universities, cut funding for athletics, more for political correctness than for good reason. The coaches left and a period of mediocrity arrived. Now, good times have returned.
John Groce coaches Ohio University. Coach Groce is described as passionate, likeable and smart. After meeting Coach Groce and talking to him on a couple of occasions, I clearly agree with the above and add the word likeable. Ohio University hit a home run with this hire. Groce coached at NC State and Ohio State. He was recognized as a top national assistant and recruiter. Ohio plays with a no-fear attitude and is not afraid to let the ball fly.
For Michigan fans not familiar with the Bobcats, here is a small primer. Ohio’s team, winner of 27 games, starts with the very dangerous and talented junior D.J. Cooper. This is indeed the same Bobcat that got on a roll in the MAC tournament three years ago and made the nation take note as Ohio took down the heavily favored Georgetown Hoyas during a prime time game in the NCAA tournament.
Cooper is flat out excitement and is electric. He is the type of player that personifies the old expression “no, no, no, nice shot.” His range is close to ridiculous and extends past the 25-foot area. He also can get to the hoop for layups, or dish. Fans that appreciate Trey Burke will like Cooper. Cooper averages over 14 points a game but can explode for big outputs. He can also carry a team on his shoulders when the going gets tough. Cooper hits about 30 percent on three’s and surprisingly that is low compared to some of his teammates.
Frankly I put the match-up between Burke and Cooper as a near draw. It will be interesting to see how Michigan defends Cooper. One would expect both Douglass and Burke to both be involved. For certain, Michigan must do a better job on the high pick option.
So, the game may come down to the other players on the court. Both Ohio and Michigan tend to make threes when the other team relaxes and does not tighten down on the perimeter. Both teams tend to occasionally not tighten down enough, chase the ball, and let the other team have good looks from outside. Expect the shooters to let it fly. Burke and Cooper will be only a few of the guys on the court that will launch with short notice from outside. Walter Offutt hits threes at the rate of 36% and Nick Kellogg, the son of Clark Kellogg, is hitting over 40%.
Ohio, like Michigan, can run when the opportunity arises. This creates some exciting moments and also some turnovers. Ohio has athletic guards and some inside players that can get down the floor.
Ohio is a little more athletic than Michigan and could hurt the Wolverines inside. Ohio does not have a Green or Sullinger, but the Bobcats do have some aggressive guys that are not afraid to mix it up.
Michigan is not assured of the rebounding advantage the way the team has been outboarded in recent weeks. Ohio has broken about even over the season. Morgan must play smart and if he sits an extended length, this spells trouble for Michigan. The Bobcats are much more aggressive and move to the ball better than Michigan has recently demonstrated. But if the game is called with moderate to high whistling, the result should favor Michigan.
The bench numbers may favor Ohio and the points off the bench may be about a push. Ohio can go a couple of players deeper than Michigan and Ohio can also rest Cooper more than Michigan can rest Burke.
This could be a game Zach Novak relishes, because the hands and bodies will be flying for loose balls. Ohio will probably play with more abandon and Michigan with more control. Both teams will get shot opportunities and the game may simply come down to the basic of who hits the shots.
Most Michigan fans are not familiar with Ohio and have already asked what team in the Big Ten is similar? My best answer is Iowa. Ohio, the real Ohio, is an interesting and entertaining team to watch. While the match-up may not create the drama and suspense of some, it is still one of the more intriguing in the first round.So, now down to what Ohio and Michigan need to do to advance onward. Michigan needs to show emotion but be under control. Self-control may be the deciding factor in this game. Michigan needs to continue to ride Burke, both inside and outside. The prediction is Burke can create some very good looks on the perimeter for the outside guys, and then Michigan must take advantage. Michigan cannot be lazy to the ball, guarding the perimeter, or during transition. Novak and Hardaway will probably be isolated on the block and baseline; they must hold their own. On offense, Zach needs to do the dirty work. Hardaway Junior must gain an advantage early in his match-up, either inside or outside, or preferably both. This will give advantage to the Michigan philosophy and open up the Beilein cupboard.
Ohio University will see, just like every other team the last month, that the Michigan defense is vulnerable to the dribble drive and high pick option,. In fact, the Purdue film may be a guiding light.
Some teams lay off of Cooper and he simply launches long bombs. Ohio can get the ball inside if Cooper drives or some of the wings gain advantage off the dribble. Ohio will probably make an effort to hit the boards for offensive rebounds. The down side in this equation is unforced turnovers, Ohio is not uber-sloppy but this team makes the type of turnovers that gain a reaction quickly. When the threes fall, Ohio can play with volcanic explosion.
Ohio will come ready to play as will Michigan. Both teams have had tournament experience. The coaching styles are fitting to the team’s personnel, one, Ohio is a little more attacking and relentless, Michigan’s a little more reserved and cerebral.
This should be a very entertaining game. The wild card in this game could very well be Michigan’s Hardaway.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff
Go Blue — Wear Maize!