December 20, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Trey Burke (3) moves the ball against the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan Basketball: Wolverines at Buckeyes — Preview — Factors Galore


Posted at 7:00am — 1/13/2013

Michigan Basketball: Wolverines at Buckeyes — Preview — Factors Galore

There is a big game Sunday afternoon as Michigan travels to Ohio State. It will be the first on many, many big games in the league in the next seven or so weeks. This game will not make or break a season, but both teams would accept a win with gratitude and know this would be a step in claiming a place at the table of legitimate conference contenders.

Michigan at Ohio State
1:30pm – 3:30pm
CBS

There are always factors and match-ups to be aware of in every game, but this game has a myriad of variables that individually and collectively may affect the game outcome, more so than normal it would appear.

December 15, 2012; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Thad Matta watches as his team plays against the NC-Asheville Bulldogs at Value City Arena. Ohio State won the game 90-72. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The game is being played at Value City Arena’s court and this is a very tough place for visitors to shoot. The place is massive and the shooting background does not always fall in favor of one time a year visitors. This is particularly so with distance shooting behind the arc. Michigan loves to launch three-pointers, maybe not so much as last year. A good strategy may be to make even more of an effort to get the ball inside and score. The Wolverines can do this in several ways, all of which are familiar to Michigan basketball observers.

Intensity, focus, poise, and mental toughness are variables that may decide the game. Both teams are capable of making big runs and may take the other team’s best shot. One period of mental letdown may provide a team with a window the other cannot recover from the damage.

Michigan’s mental toughness and intensity are improved, but still not at a top level like, say, a Duke or Indiana. Ohio State will play with maximum intensity since the game is at home and this is the annual bloodletting noise fest that occurs whether Michigan is 16-0 or 0-16. It is in the DNA to play the best game of the year at the Schott.

Ohio State plays tough physically but not always with focus. Michigan needs to play tougher mentally and physically to be in the game. Ohio State at times lets down when the team is behind. Although simplistic, Michigan can apply more pressure with a lead.

Michigan must take care of the ball and not provide the unforced turnovers from lazy passes around the perimeter area or weak passes inside when trapped or on bad entries. Ohio State’s offense clicks when the defense out front makes steals and goes the other way for lay-ups or easy transition baskets. If Michigan takes care of the ball and makes Ohio State a half-court offense, then the Wolverines should be in the game at the end.

Ohio State has some hot perimeter shooters, and if the Wolverines play sloppy, ho-hum defense, then the result could be a very bad day for the Maize and Blue. Deshaun Thomas is as pure a shooter and scorer as the Big Ten possesses. He presents a big problem for Michigan.

Last year, Michigan did everything possible to match-up and neutralize Jared. Sullinger. The problem was that left no one else to match up with Thomas. Sullinger is gone, but Thomas remains a match-up problem at 6’8” and having the ability to shoot anywhere on the court.

Lenzelle Smith can quickly provide big offense as can LaQuinton Ross.

High-level defensive coaches yell at practice dozens of times a day “Pressure on the ball, pressure on the ball.” John Groce of Illinois values this teaching as a must and so does his ex-boss Thad Motta. Groce’s Illinois team put great pressure on the ball and the shooter when Illinois thumped Ohio State.

Perhaps the key variable in this game becomes will the Michigan players step-up and put pressure on the ball and still not get beat easily off the dribble to the middle for defensive meltdowns? Michigan must put pressure on Thomas’ shots and continue to apply the pressure. He will not stop shooting, and this can be good or bad for both teams.

Jan 8, 2013; West Lafayette, IN, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes guard Aaron Craft (4) during the 2nd half against the Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

There is a myth that Aaron Craft’s game is down: discount this myth as his shooting is coming back and if Michigan becomes lazy on the defensive end Craft could catch fire and provide the fire-power to put Ohio State over the top.

Both teams have had trouble with inside defense and transition defense. So, the logical question is will these weaknesses balance out?

Michigan is bringing freshmen starters into a very hostile environment. These guys are not typical freshmen but the factors of poise and shooting accuracy are clear questions. In a situation like this a coach sends them forward and hopes for the best. This will be the biggest meat grinder the young Wolverines have faced, or may ever face.

The match-up everyone will watch is Burke versus Craft. The prediction here is both will play well, but Burke has the best ability to control a game the last two minutes.

January 9, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines forward Mitch McGary (4) blocks a shot by Nebraska Cornhuskers forward Brandon Ubel (13) in the first half at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The “inside guys” may determine the game. Both groups can score and both groups can give up easy scores. Thomas has not played very good inside defense at times this year. But Ohio State has huge size in Evan Revenel, Amir Williams, and forwards Thomas and LaQuinton Ross.

There will be plenty of athletic and basketball talent on display. Ohio State has the size and probably the better overall athletes. Michigan may have the better basketball players that themselves are pretty good, but smaller athletes. Both teams can run well off of turnovers, score in transition, and hit long shots. Ohio State appears more one-on one oriented, due to the fact that some of Ohio State’s scorers have little Velcro on their hands, while Michigan players have clearly demonstrated a team approach to offense, even considering Trey Burke controlling the offense like a general.

Showtime, but win or lose, this is just the start of a brutal journey, one that will take more than pretty basketball and a good offense. Toughness and poise will be tested; the results are to be determined.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff

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