These two teams hate each other. The players, the fans, the students, everyone on either side hates everyone on the other side. Emotions are going to be a huge factor in this game and that’ll make it close. Stats, previous games, coaches and anything else you can usually use to predict who is going to win a game can all be thrown out the window when it comes to a rivalry game. Michigan will be looking to get revenge for their football team’s loss against Ohio State this season.
#8 Ohio State vs #22 Michigan
This game has huge Big Ten regular season title implications tied to it. Michigan State is the sole owner of first place in the Big Ten as of now after their comeback win against Northwestern on Saturday. Ohio State is a half game back and will need a win in this game to regain their spot atop the Big Ten. Michigan does not have a chance to win the Big Ten, but can improve their seeding for the Big Ten tournament with a win.
Ohio State has been playing really well down the stretch. With the exception of two losses against Penn State they have been on a roll in Big Ten play. Keita Bates-Diop is the front runner for Big Ten Player of the Year and has performed at a high level this season. He’s been a little cold from the field as of late, shooting under 40% in 3 of his last 5 games, but he is the Buckeyes leading scorer on the season. Kaleb Wesson has stepped up in recent games and has been able to complement the play of Bates-Diop. Ohio State has a ton of play makers and will be a match up nightmare for Michigan. It’ll be important for Ohio State to get everyone involved on offense so that they can spread out the defense of Michigan.
Michigan should take a page out of Penn State’s book to figure out how to bet OSU. The Wolverines have been streaky as of late, but overall have been pretty good throughout the season. Michigan plays a solid defense and ranks 10th in the country in opponent’s points per game. The wealth is spread throughout the offense pretty evenly. No player on the Wolverines averages more than 15 points per game, with Mo Wagner being the leading scorer at 14.6 points per game. This has been working well for Michigan and it allows them to spread out the floor on offense with multiple threats to score. Michigan will rely on their home crowd and their strong defense to try and upset the Buckeyes and improve their chances at getting a better first round match up in the Big Ten tournament.
Keys to the Game
Ohio State: Spread out on offense and share the rock. Michigan’s defense is top notch and it will take a lot of scoring for Ohio State to get a W on the road. Going into a hostile environment against a rival is going to be rough as it is, but if Ohio State can get upwards of 20 assists in this game, they’ll be in good shape to win. Keita Bates-Diop and Kaleb Wesson will need to put on an offensive clinic in order to get the Buckeye’s offense off and running. Once those two get going, it’ll open up the floor for other scorers to contribute.
Michigan: Keep Keita Bates-Diop off the glass. He ranks third in the Big Ten in rebounds per game with 8.8. The Wolverines need to draw him out of the paint while on offense and allow their big men to control the glass. This will not be an easy task; Michigan is tied for 299th in the nation for rebounds per game with 33.1. This is problematic for the Wolverines, but if they can somehow outrebound the Buckeyes, they’ll put themselves in a good position to win.
Michigan should be able to get a win at home in this one. The Wolverines play stellar defense at home and lost by only one to a Purdue team that at the time was everyone’s favorite to win the Big Ten. Michigan will have to hope for another defensive showing like the one they had against Purdue to win against OSU. Ohio State played with little to no rhythm on the road at Penn State and another road game here will truly put them to the test. The depth of the Big Ten this year has caused it to become a cannibalistic conference, with unranked and low ranked teams beating all the teams at the top of the league. The Big Ten tournament will be a good test for these teams going into the national tournament because of how good the competition is.