We’ve already had a pregame glance at Michigan this season, so you can consider this a pregame double-take. Back on January 12th the Buckeyes traveled North to take on the Wolverines in a game that you may better remember as The Brady Hoke Arrival Showdown Memorial Roundball Classic. In that earlier contest Ohio State picked up their 17th victory of the season on a hard-fought 68-64 win, battling through some crafty Michigan defense, a second-half scoring drought, and a Wolverine run near the end of the game that made it a bit close for comfort.
That game came in the middle of a particularly bad stretch for Michigan, as they had dropped their two games prior to facing the Buckeyes (Wisconsin, Kansas) and proceeded to drop their next three games after the Buckeyes left town (Indiana, Northwestern, Minnesota). More recently the Wolverines have started to turn it around, picking up wins over Michigan State and Iowa to give some new life to their tournament hopes. The win over the Spartans could be an especially significant confidence-booster for the Wolverines, as they hadn’t defeated Tom Izzo’s team on their four previous encounters, and hadn’t won in Lansing since 1997.
In Michigan’s win over Iowa, guard Darius Morris recorded the rare collegiate triple-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists. Morris, who led the Wolverines in scoring with 18 points in the game against the Buckeyes earlier this month, truly is a do-everything player. In fact, if you’re a sophisticated sports fan who gets your basketball news from the Wall Street Journal, you’d know that Morris was recently cited as the player most important to his team’s success when compared to other players and teams around the country. This honor certainly involves a degree of statistical trickeration in reaching its conclusion, as it doesn’t take into account defense, intangibles, ability to draw double-teams, and so on, but it is also a testament to the impact of the Wolverine sophomore, especially when you see that two of the other names on the short list are “Kemba” and “Jimmer.”
Lest we forget, Michigan is a very young team overall, so we probably haven’t seen anything close to their best yet. While Ohio State has three freshmen getting significant PT this season (Sully, Craft, Thomas), the Wolverines actually start three freshmen (Evan Smotrycz, Jordan Morgan, Tim Hardaway, Jr.), and Morris is only a sophomore. In other words, this team can be expected to get better by leaps and bounds, and are coming into Thursday’s game in Columbus as a dangerous team.
As they return home after narrowly escaping Northwestern’s upset bid on Saturday, Ohio State will need to take it right at Michigan and seek to pick up fouls so that they can take advantage of easy points off free throws later in the game. After a poor game from David Lighty in the just-barely-win over the Wildcats, look for the senior leader to come out with great vengeance and furious anger and assert himself in an effort to get Ohio State back on track.
The Buckeyes will face Michigan at 7:00pm on Thursday. The game will be aired on ESPN.
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