Columbus, OH (Sports Network) - Two of the Big Ten's best are set for a Sunday
afternoon showdown, as the second-ranked Michigan Wolverines battle the 15th-
ranked Ohio State Buckeyes at Value City Arena.
Michigan is off to the second-best start in program history, and with one more
victory, it will match the 1985-86 team's record of 17-0. With No. 1 Duke
losing on Saturday to NC State, the Wolverines are the lone unbeaten team in
Division I. This bout marks the team's second against a nationally-ranked
opponent this season, as it knocked off the same Wolfpack squad that just
dropped Duke at home on Nov. 18, 79-72, although since their meetings, both
Pittsburgh and Kansas State have made appearances in the Top-25.
The Wolverines moved to 3-0 in conference play on Jan. 9 with a 62-47 victory
over Nebraska. They had seen better days shooting the ball (.389 FG
percentage), but they were able to cruise to the double-digit win behind a
fantastic defensive effort, as they held the Cornhuskers below 34 percent
shooting from the floor. After putting up 19 points and 12 assists in the Jan.
6 win over Iowa, Trey Burke followed that up with an 18-point effort against
Nebraska and was named the Big Ten Player of the Week. Tim Hardaway, Jr.
logged a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds, Glenn Robinson III
chipped in 14 points, and Nik Stauskas finished with 13.
Ohio State started the season as the nation's No. 4 team, but it has tumbled
in the rankings due to losses to top-flight teams in Duke (73-68), Kansas
(74-66) and Illinois (74-55). It has been impressive at home, winning nine of
10 matchups in Columbus.
The Buckeyes embarked on a two-game road trip last week, and they avenged
their Jan. 5 loss to Illinois by claiming a 74-64 win over Purdue on Jan. 8,
where they got out to a 10-point halftime lead and never looked back. They
shot a lofty 55.6 percent from the field, paced by a 22-point effort by
Deshaun Thomas. Aaron Craft (15 points) and Evan Ravenel (11 points) were also
highly productive, while Lenzelle Smith, Jr. grabbed 10 rebounds and Shannon
Scott dished out eight assists.
Ohio State owns a 98-73 advantage in the all-time series with its bitter
rival, and the two teams split a pair of meetings in 2011-12, with each
winning on its home floor.
Michigan has played outstanding at both ends of the floor, as it ranks behind
only Indiana in the Big Ten in scoring (80.8 ppg) while holding opponents more
than 20 lower (58.8 ppg). Burke is undoubtedly one of the nation's best
guards, as he shoots better than 53 percent from the field for 18.2 ppg, while
leading the league in assists with 7.3 per contest. Hardaway, Jr. is a
fantastic second option, putting up 16.3 ppg, and Stauskas (13.5 ppg) has made
46 3-pointers at an astounding 52.3 percent clip. Robinson III rounds out the
balanced scoring attack with 12.6 ppg, and he also grabs a team-high 6.1 rpg.
The Wolverines take great care of the basketball, turning it over fewer than
10 times per outing.
While it hasn't nearly been as dominant as Michigan, Ohio State too has built
its reputation on the back of both an impressive scoring offense (75.7 ppg)
and a pretty stingy scoring defense (58.1 ppg), and as a result it owns the
league's third-best scoring margin of plus-17.7. The majority of the team's
production at the offensive end has come from Thomas, who serves as the Big
Ten's top scorer at 20.3 ppg. Thomas shoots 47.2 percent from the field
overall, which includes a 40.4 percent showing from beyond the arc, and he
grabs a team-high 6.8 rpg as well. Smith, Jr. pitches in with 10.7 ppg and 5.5
rpg, while Craft (8.9 ppg) and Scott (6.1 ppg) have combined for more than
nine assists and nearly four steals per contest.
The Sports Network