The #2 ranked Michigan Basketball team will play at #14 Ohio State on Sunday. Tip is scheduled for 1:37pm and the game will be televised on CBS. Michigan has cruised to a 16-0 start this season and they have done it in very impressive fashion. The Wolverines are being hailed by many as the best offensive team in the country. Michigan averages 1.25 points per possession which leads the country. However the sledding is about to get a lot tougher for U-M. They play back-to-back road games this week as they have a trip to Minnesota on deck for Thursday. In fact, 6 of Michigan’s next 9 games are on the road. Here’s a look at the upcoming schedule:
1/13 at Ohio State
1/17 at Minnesota
1/24 vs Purdue
1/27 at Illinois
1/30 vs Northwestern
2/2 at Indiana
2/5 vs Ohio State
2/9 at Wisconsin
2/12 at Michigan State
Ohio State (12-3, 2-1) is led by Deshaun Thomas who is averaging a Big Ten best 20.3 points per game. Lenzelle Smith Jr. is the only other Buckeye averaging double digits in scoring (10.7). Aaron Craft will do his best to slow down Trey Burke and he usually gets a lot of leeway from the officials when he is playing at home. So expect to see Ohio State employ a physical defense against the explosive Burke.
Yes, Ohio State is nearly invincible at home. However, in the Thad Matta era they are 18-11 vs ranked opponents at home. Translation, despite the game being played in Columbus, it’s no sure thing that the Buckeyes will be able to take down the #2 team in the country. Many see their offense as a one-trick pony in Deshaun Thomas. He’s good, but was more deadly last year when he had big ole Jared Sullinger in the paint to free him up a bit.
It will be interesting to see how the foul situation plays itself out. Michigan enters the game leading the country in fewest fouls per game (11.6) and the Buckeyes, Aaron Craft in particular, are notorious for getting some home cooking from the officials.
Trey Burke’s sensational play has earned him a bevy of awards and recogintion over the past week. He was named the Big Ten’s Player of the Week, the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week, a finalist for the Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard Award and to the Midseason Top 25 for John R. Wooden Award National Player of the Year and All-America Team awards.
Burke, a Columbus native, is looking forward to playing in his home town. ”I’m excited to go back home and play in front of my home town, in front of a lot of people that don’t get to see me play up at Michigan,” Burke said in a teleconference on Friday. “It should be fun. I was really excited last year. Unfortunately we lost, but it should be just as exciting going in there and playing Ohio State this year.”
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Caris LeVert also hails from Columbus and Burke said he has given him a few pointers about playing at Ohio State. ”Caris is really excited, too,” Burke explained. “He is in the situation I was last year. He doesn’t know what to expect. I tried to tell him it’s just going to be another away game. It’s exciting, because the level of intensity is higher just because it’s Ohio State-Michigan. I told him to play the way he knows how to play and act like it’s any other game.”
Michigan plays all 5 of their freshman as part of their regular rotation and this will be a different environment from any they’ve played in before. Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Jordan Morgan will serve as a calming influence for their young teammates. They’ve been in these battles before and know what to expect. Traditionally it’s more than reasonable to expect a Michigan loss at Ohio State. However, this is not your typical Michigan team and they are more than capable of picking up this key road win.
After a tougher than expected 62-47 victory over Nebraska on Wednesday, I think the Wolverines will be laser-focused on Sunday. Don’t be surprised if they play some of their best basketball of the season. I think Trey Burke will be outstanding and ultimately, the difference in the game.
Predictions: So far this season Joe and I are both 16-0 predicting the outcome of Michigan Basketball games. In our pre-season projections we both had Michigan suffering their first loss of the season in this game. Well, these Wolverines are even better than we thought they were going to be and Joe and I both think they will establish a new school record with a 17-0 start by defeating the Buckeyes.
Joe: Michigan 71-67
Rob: Michigan 74-70