Ohio State’s men’s basketball team will likely find itself in unfamiliar territory on Sunday as a home underdog.
The Buckeyes, coming off of a 74-64 road victory against Purdue on Tuesday, will host arch rival and undefeated Michigan on Sunday.
Along with Duke, Michigan has been the most impressive team in the country so far this season. The Wolverines feature a balanced scoring attack, led by player of the year candidate Trey Burke.
Michigan has four players who average in double digit scoring: Burke at 18.2 points per game, Tim Hardaway Jr. with 16.3, Nik Stauskas at 13.5 and Glenn Robinson III with 12.6.
As much as it may pain Buckeye fans to admit, Michigan seems like it is on a mission to not only win the Big Ten title, but contend for a national title as well.
However, this game on Sunday is in Columbus. After being embarrassed by Illinois, the Buckeyes rebounded nicely against Purdue and played a pretty solid game. They will need a near perfect game on Sunday to beat the Wolverines and I have got five keys for Ohio State to defeat Michigan:
1. Points from players not named Deshaun Thomas: This is the theme of the season for Ohio State against good teams. Deshaun Thomas cannot beat Michigan alone as the Wolverines are too good. He will need some help. Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross seem to be the likely candidates who can score the basketball at times for OSU. They will likely need at least two of these three guys in double digits to have a chance.
2. Aaron Craft on Trey Burke: This is a battle of the Big Ten’s two best point guards–and two of the best in the entire country. Craft hasn’t had the offensive season everyone has hoped for this year, but he is still a nightmare on the defensive end. He must make Trey Burke’s life miserable for OSU to have any shot. Last year, OSU and Michigan played three times with Ohio State winning two out of three. In Ohio State’s two wins, Craft held Burke to 19 points combined on just 6/22 shooting. In the lone Michigan victory, however, Burke had 17 points and was 6/14 from the field. Craft must be in lock down mode on one of the best players in the country.
3. Battle of the boards: Hardaway Jr., Robinson III, Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary all average above five rebounds per game for Michigan, so it gets its production from a variety of places. The same can be said for Ohio State. Amir Williams and Evan Ravenel inside must control the glass, but OSU must also get rebounding contributions from Thomas and Smith Jr., as well as Sam Thompson.
4. Win the turnover battle: This seems like a key to every game, but it is especially important in big games like this one. Going along with Craft defending Burke, OSU will also need Smith Jr., Thompson and Shannon Scott to create havoc defensively on the perimeter and force some turnovers from the Michigan guards. Turnovers on the perimeter lead to easy transition baskets and some of those Sam Thompson dunks we all like to see so much.
5. Use the crowd: Michigan has only played two true road games on the season–Bradley and Northwestern. Ohio State must use the crowd at the Schott to its advantage and make sure it keeps the crowd involved early in the game. If Michigan can take the crowd out of the game early, that is a huge advantage for the Wolverines.
Ohio State has struggled against good teams this season as it has lost to Duke, Kansas and Illinois already. Getting the opportunity to play the nation’s No. 2-ranked team on their home floor is all the Buckeyes can ask for.
This one should be a dandy.