#19 Michigan vs. #6 Ohio State: Saturday's Preview

    
February 17th, 2012

Previews of the top Sears BracketBusters games can be found here.

Saturday's received a lot of attention due to the lion's share of the games in the Sears BracketBusters event being played, but there are also key games in BCS AQ leagues on the slate. One such contest is #6 Ohio State (22-4, 10-3) making the short trek north to take on #19 Michigan (19-7, 9-4) and hoping to leave Ann Arbor as the Big Ten leader. These two teams have already played once, a 64-49 Buckeye win in Columbus on January 29th, so this is a key contest for the Wolverines with regards to possible tiebreakers down the line. Ohio State was able to pull away by shooting 59% from two in the second half, and while Michigan shot 5-for-14 from beyond the arc their 35.7% shooting from inside of the arc proved to be the difference. 

The star on that afternoon was the one member of the Ohio State starting lineup who tends to be ignored by many, Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (6.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg), who scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the way. The freshman is a player in a mold similar to David Lighty, as his job is to do whatever the team needs at that point in time. He may score more in some games than others, but Smith Jr.'s intangibles and defense are areas that Thad Matta and his staff expect to be present every night. Clearly Michigan will need to pay closer attention to him than they did in the first meeting, and it's expected that they'll make the necessary adjustments. 

The main characters for the Buckeyes are well-known, from Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas inside to Aaron Craft and Will Buford on the perimeter. Sullinger (17.6 ppg, 9.2 rpg) was held in check in Columbus as he scored 13 points and grabbed five rebounds, but in order for Michigan to do so again they need production from Jordan Morgan. Morgan (7.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg) is the man the Wolverines rely on inside, and that's more for defensive and rebounding purposes than scoring. Morgan's reached double figures in just three Big Ten games this season and has scored just 12 points in the last two games combined, but Michigan will need more from him on Saturday night.

Michigan does also have Evan Smotrycz and the versatile Zack Novak to call on, as both are versatile players who can do a variety of things within John Beilein's system. Novak's the leader of this team and when Michigan needs a boost he's usually the one to provide it. The other experienced options on the wing are Stu Douglass (7.6 ppg) and leading scorer Tim Hardaway, Jr. Hardaway Jr. (14.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg) may be shooting just 26.7% from beyond the arc but Ohio State won't allow him to fire away at will, and his 2.5 assists per game rank second on the team. How these players fare against Buford will go a long way in determining the outcome.

The battle at the point will bring the most intrigue as Michigan freshman Trey Burke (14.0 ppg, 4.8 apg, 3.5 rpg) has shown himself to be more than capable of taking over for the departed Darius Morris, and he'll need to take care of the basketball against Craft on Saturday night. Burke racked up 13 points and five assists in the first meeting but also turned the ball over five times, and a ratio along those lines won't bode well for the Wolverines. Craft really doesn't have to score a great deal but he does have to be the consummate floor general while also locking down opposing point guards, which he has shown himself to be more than capable of doing.

In addition to the issues cited earlier in this preview, Ohio State attempted 18 free throws (making 15) while Michigan finished the game 3-for-4. Given their reliance on the perimeter shot Michigan isn't going to attempt a high number of free throws on most nights, as they're averaging 14 attempts per game, but Michigan has to be closer to that number if they're to send the fans home happy. If they can do this as well as hold their own on the glass against a far superior rebounding team, Michigan can remain a factor in the Big Ten race. 

The Pac-12 battle between Arizona and Washington might as well be considered a "bracket buster" given both team's need for wins at this point in the season. The problem for both is that there aren't many quality wins in the Pac-12 given the league's struggles in non-conference play, but the closer either can get to a regular season title the better.

Washington won the first meeting in Tucson by two and the second battle shapes up to be every bit as close provided the Wildcats have an answer for Tony Wroten. Jesse Perry and Solomon Hill have been key factors in Arizona's run of five straight wins, and along with Kyle Fogg it will be Sean Miller's veterans who will ultimately lead them to the NCAA tournament.

Also out west is a key Mountain West battle between New Mexico and UNLV in Albuquerque, as the Lobos look to increase their lead to two games. The Runnin' Rebels blitzed UNM in the first meeting but this is a different group of Lobos now, with Kendall Williams scoring 21 points in their win at San Diego State and Drew Gordon adding 17 points and 17 rebounds.

Chace Stanback's production will be something to keep an eye on because even with Mike Moser and Anthony Marshall making things happen UNLV needs their senior wing to be a factor as well. Of the three teams at the top of the Mountain West the regular season title may be most important for Steve Alford's team from a resume standpoint, and a win over UNLV would go a long way in that department. 

UConn will be looking to bolster their tournament resume with a win over Marquette at home and NC State needs to rebound from their loss at Duke with a win over Florida State in Raleigh. Kansas State visits Baylor in desperate need of a win at this point in the season given their recent struggles, and both Seton Hall and Cincinnati are in search of a resume boost as well.

The Bearcats still have the albatross that is their loss to Presbyterian hanging around, and with their resume and strength of schedule Mick Cronin's team has a lot of work to do between now and the end of the regular season. And the Ivy League race will take a serious turn one way or the other as Yale visits first place Harvard. The Crimson blew out Yale in their first meeting this season, and while the Bulldogs do have big man Greg Magnano this may not be their best matchup. It will take an awful lot for Yale to leave Cambridge with a win.  

Top 25 Games
4:00 PM Ole Miss at (1) Kentucky (ESPN3)
2:00 PM (3) Missouri at Texas A&M (ESPN)
8:00 PM Texas Tech at (5) Kansas (ESPN3)
9:00 PM (6) Ohio State at (19) Michigan (ESPN)
4:00 PM Clemson at (7) North Carolina (ESPN)
7:00 PM (9) Georgetown at Providence (ESPN3)
1:45 PM Kansas State at (10) Baylor (ESPN3)
1:00 PM (11) UNLV at New Mexico (CBS)
6:00 PM (12) Florida at Arkansas (ESPN2)
12:00 PM (13) Marquette at Connecticut (ESPN)
6:00 PM (16) Saint Mary's at (14) Murray State (ESPN)
4:00 PM (15) San Diego State at Air Force
12:00 PM (18) Louisville at DePaul (ESPN3)
1:00 PM (21) Florida State at North Carolina State (ESPN3)
1:00 PM Maryland at (22) Virginia (ESPN3)
8:00 PM (23) Mississippi State at Auburn (ESPN3)
8:00 PM (24) Gonzaga at San Francisco (ROOT NW)
9:00 PM (25) Notre Dame at Villanova (ESPN3)

NCAA Division I Games
11:00 AM Drexel at Cleveland State (ESPNU)
11:30 AM Bryant at Saint Francis (PA) (ROOT)
12:00 PM Tennessee Tech at Coastal Carolina
12:00 PM Wichita State at Davidson (ESPN2)
1:00 PM Stony Brook at Northeastern
1:00 PM UTEP at Memphis
1:00 PM Wake Forest at Miami (FL)
1:00 PM Liberty at Morgan State
1:00 PM Buffalo at South Dakota State (ESPNU)
1:00 PM UCLA at St. John's (CBS)
1:00 PM William & Mary at VMI
1:30 PM Tennessee at Alabama (ESPN3)
1:45 PM Oklahoma at Iowa State (ESPN3)
1:45 PM LSU at South Carolina (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Hampton at Delaware
2:00 PM Morehead State at Bowling Green
2:00 PM Akron at Oral Roberts (ESPN2)
2:00 PM Duquesne at Temple
2:00 PM Niagara at Vermont
2:00 PM Marist at Maine
2:00 PM Winthrop at Appalachian State
2:00 PM Southern Illinois at Ball State
2:00 PM Indiana State at Butler
2:00 PM UMBC at Canisius
2:00 PM James Madison at Detroit
2:00 PM North Dakota at Longwood
2:00 PM North Carolina-Wilmington at Manhattan
2:00 PM Northern Illinois at SIU-Edwardsville
2:00 PM Hartford at St. Peter's
2:00 PM Eastern Michigan at Green Bay
3:00 PM Towson at New Hampshire
3:00 PM Drake at New Mexico State (ESPNU)
3:00 PM Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech (ESPN3)
3:00 PM Arizona at Washington (FSN)
3:00 PM Western Carolina at Elon (ESPN3)
3:00 PM Toledo at Sam Houston State
3:00 PM Marshall at Southern Methodist
3:15 PM Mercer at Jacksonville
3:30 PM Campbell at Northwestern State
4:00 PM Saint Joseph's at George Washington
4:00 PM TCU at Boise State (The Mtn.)
4:00 PM Bucknell at Holy Cross
4:00 PM Fordham at Saint Louis
4:00 PM Texas at Oklahoma State (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Fairfield at Milwaukee
4:00 PM Nevada at Iona (ESPN2)
4:00 PM American University at Army
4:00 PM Seton Hall at Cincinnati (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Howard at Coppin State
4:00 PM Lamar at George Mason (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Siena at Hofstra
4:00 PM Lafayette at Lehigh
4:00 PM Southeast Missouri State at McNeese State
4:00 PM North Carolina Central at North Carolina A&T
4:00 PM Binghamton at Radford
4:00 PM Florida A&M at Savannah State
4:00 PM Bethune-Cookman at South Carolina State
4:30 PM Rhode Island at St. Bonaventure
4:30 PM Louisiana-Lafayette at North Texas (ESPN3)
4:30 PM Quinnipiac at LIU Brooklyn
4:30 PM Central Arkansas at Louisiana Tech
4:30 PM IUPUI at Nicholls State
5:00 PM Illinois at Nebraska (BTN)
5:00 PM Colorado at Utah
5:00 PM Furman at Samford
5:00 PM Old Dominion at Missouri State (ESPNU)
5:05 PM Wright State at UMKC
5:05 PM Oakland at Illinois State
5:30 PM Prairie View A&M at Mississippi Valley State
6:00 PM La Salle at Massachusetts
6:00 PM Cornell at Princeton
6:00 PM Charlotte at Richmond
6:00 PM Southern University at Alabama A&M
6:00 PM Alcorn State at Alabama State
6:00 PM Louisiana-Monroe at Denver
6:00 PM Charleston at Kent State
6:00 PM Jackson State at Grambling State
6:30 PM Florida Atlantic at Middle Tennessee (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Minnesota at Northwestern (BTN)
7:00 PM Yale at Harvard
7:00 PM Monmouth at Mount St. Mary's
7:00 PM Brown at Dartmouth
7:00 PM UNC Asheville at Ohio (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Columbia at Pennsylvania
7:00 PM Citadel at Chattanooga
7:00 PM Rider at Albany
7:00 PM East Carolina at UCF
7:00 PM Texas A&M-CC at Central Michigan
7:00 PM Wofford at Charleston Southern
7:00 PM Illinois-Chicago at Eastern Illinois
7:00 PM IPFW at Eastern Kentucky
7:00 PM Delaware State at Gardner-Webb
7:00 PM UTSA at Georgia State
7:00 PM Colgate at Navy
7:00 PM Kennesaw State at North Florida
7:00 PM Central Connecticut State at Robert Morris
7:00 PM BYU at Santa Clara (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Tennessee-Martin at Southeastern Louisiana
7:00 PM Sacred Heart at St. Francis (NY)
7:00 PM High Point at Stephen F. Austin
7:00 PM Fairleigh Dickinson at Wagner
7:30 PM USC Upstate at Lipscomb (ESPN3)
7:30 PM UNC Greensboro at Georgia Southern
8:00 PM Tulane at UAB
8:00 PM Presbyterian at Jacksonville State
8:00 PM Loyola (IL) at Bradley
8:00 PM Rice at Tulsa
8:00 PM Texas State at South Dakota
8:00 PM Arizona State at Washington State (ROOT NW)
8:00 PM Idaho State at Pacific
8:00 PM Chicago State at Texas-Pan American
8:00 PM Texas Southern at Arkansas-Pine Bluff
8:00 PM Western Michigan at North Dakota State
8:00 PM Texas-Arlington at Weber State (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Dayton at Xavier
8:05 PM Western Kentucky at South Alabama (FCS)
8:05 PM Western Illinois at Evansville
8:05 PM Florida International at Arkansas State
8:05 PM NJIT at Houston Baptist
8:15 PM East Tennessee State at Belmont
8:30 PM Youngstown State at Austin Peay
8:30 PM Arkansas-Little Rock at Troy
9:00 PM Wyoming at Colorado State (The Mtn.)
9:00 PM Hawaii at Montana
9:00 PM Southern Miss at Houston
9:00 PM Cal Poly at Northern Colorado
9:05 PM UC Santa Barbara at Utah State (ESPN3)
9:05 PM Montana State at Cal State Fullerton
9:05 PM UC Davis at Northern Arizona
10:00 PM Oregon State at California
10:00 PM Southern Utah at UC Riverside
10:00 PM Long Beach State at Creighton (ESPN2)
10:00 PM Eastern Washington at UC Irvine
10:00 PM Portland at Pepperdine
10:00 PM San Diego at Cal State Bakersfield
10:05 PM San Jose State at Sacramento State
10:05 PM Portland State at Idaho
10:05 PM Fresno State at Cal State Northridge