Game of the Week: No. 15 Michigan vs. No. 22 Ohio State
The red-hot Michigan Wolverines head into hostile territory next Tuesday, to take on archrival Ohio State. The matchup is the first and only meeting of the season, between the two schools.
Michigan has looked unstoppable since the start of Big Ten play, aside from a tough road loss at Assembly Hall, to Indiana. They dropped out of the AP top 25 after a 6-4 start to the season, but have been one of the best teams in the country since. The Wolverines have won 11 of their last 12 games, nine of them in Big Ten play. Their last win was a 79-50 drubbing of Nebraska.
Michigan has been propelled by the play of sophomore guard Nik Stauskas. The Ontario, native is averaging 17.3 points per game to lead the team. In Michigan’s three straight wins against top ten teams Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan State in January, Stauskas scored 23, 26 and 19 respectively. The Wolverines have relied on wing scoring and played with a guard heavy lineup since forward Mitch McGary’s injury. Forward Glenn Robinson III has been wildly inconsistent this season, and after three straight games with fewer than 10 points, re-gained his scoring touch with 23 points against Nebraska.
Ohio State has picked their play up lately after starting its Big Ten schedule in dismal fashion. After starting the season unbeaten, Ohio State lost four straight games to Big Ten opponents. Since, they have won three of four, with the lone loss being by one in overtime to Penn State. The Buckeyes have picked up their play drastically in their last two games, after dropping out of the top 25 for the first time this season. They have defeated two straight ranked teams on the road; 14th ranked Wisconsin 59-58 last Sunday, and 17th ranked Iowa 76-69 on Tuesday. A win against 10th ranked Michigan would be huge for Ohio State’s tournament resume.
Ohio State relies on strong defense and spread scoring to win games. Floor leader and point guard Aaron Craft, has been the face of clutch play this season. He has been phenomenal late in games. In Saturday’s one-point win at Wisconsin, he scored all seven of his points in the final four minutes of play. Ohio State is a deep team with several players who can go off on any given night, as opposed to last season, when Deshaun Thomas took on most of the scoring responsibility. In Tuesday’s win at Iowa, five different Buckeyes scored in double-figures.
The matchup between Michigan and Ohio State is an interesting one. Ohio State has the size advantage down low and should be able to overpower Michigan in the post. Michigan however, has a more dynamic scorer in Stauskas, than anyone on Ohio State’s roster. If Robinson III is able to find his scoring touch in this game, Michigan should be able to break down the Buckeyes defense and score in bunches. Ohio State has been a gritty team this season and can never be counted out of a game, especially late in the second half.
An Ohio State win over Michigan would be huge for its momentum and more importantly, for its NCAA Tournament resume. It would be the Buckeyes third straight win over a ranked team. For the Wolverines, a win keeps them in contention for the Big Ten title and adds another big win to their resume.
Michael Katz is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.