NCAA Tournament Preview: #13 Ohio vs. #4 Michigan

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - JANUARY 24: Michigan Wolverines head basketball coach John Beilein talks to his team during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey Arena on January 24, 2012 in West Lafayette, Indiana. Michigan defeated Purdue 66-64. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

After a seemingly endless week of anticipation, Ohio but not really "Ohio" jokes, and listening to the chatter around the country regarding DJ Cooper and a potential first round upset, the Michigan Wolverines will take the court in Nashville at 7:20 EST to take on the Ohio Bobcats. After a pretty uneventful day in first round play yesterday, it seems likely that there should be some upsets today. Let's hope that Michigan losing isn't one of them.

Ohio has been covered well across the Michigan blogosphere, from here (Impressions From Ohio vs. Akron, Quick Ohio Profile, Breaking Down Ohio with MAC Report Online, Breaking Down Ohio with the Hustle Belt) UMHoops (Film Room: Scouting Ohio, Film Room: Ohio's Defense, Opposition Q&A, Presser Transcript) and MGoBlog (Death From Above, Another Q&A with the Hustle Belt, Scouting OHIO) in particular. The content during this past week has been fantastic, and there's been no shortage of information on a relatively unknown opponent. If you aren't familiar with the Bobcats, I'd strongly suggest reading some of the articles linked above, as they're very helpful and informative. Since most of the information on Ohio's team has been covered already, I'm going to focus more specifically on how the Bobcats stack up against the Wolverines.

Statistically:

  • Michigan's Offensive Efficiency: 113.6 (24 nationally)
  • Michigan's Defensive Efficiency: 93.9 (47)
  • Ohio's Offensive Efficiency: 104.1 (117)
  • Ohio's Defensive Efficiency: 93.8 (46)

Michigan's Offense Rank Ohio's Defense Rank
Effective FG % 53.6 21 47.2 94
Turnover % 17.6 36 26.7 2
Off. Rebound % 28.3 279 33.9 245
Free Throw Rate 28.9 328 43.5 302
Ohio's Offense Rank Michigan's Defense Rank
Effective FG % 49.0 171 48.8 163
Turnover % 19.7 143 20.2 171
Off. Rebound % 35.2 63 30.8 114
Free Throw Rate 36.6 169 30.0 39

Michigan Offense vs. Ohio Defense:

  • Is Ohio going to be able to force a lot of turnovers? The Bobcats excel at forcing turnovers: they jump passing lanes, play physical man-to-man defense, and double down onto the post. Michigan's been able to hold onto the ball well this year, but the first half against Arkansas was a blitzkrieg of consecutive takeaways and subsequent easy layups. Fortunately, the Bobcats don't press all that often, so Michigan just needs to make smart passes and avoid getting caught in trap situations. Unfortunately, that's easier said than done.
  • Can the Bobcats defend Michigan's screen-and-roll with Trey Burke and Jordan Morgan? Michigan's bread-and-butter play has been the screen-and-roll as Burke can either hit the three or penetrate into the lane depending on what his man does, and his drives to the basket open up good looks for shooters when defenders help off of their man. Some teams have been extremely effective at shutting down that action and Michigan's offense suffers because of it. Depending on how well Ohio defends this play, Michigan's offense will either look very good or very bad. I personally feel that Michigan can exploit this matchup, as Ohio didn't defend the screen well against Akron in the MAC Championship game.

Ohio Offense vs. Michigan Defense:

  • How well can Michigan contain DJ Cooper? For how much hype Cooper's been getting, this will be one of the game's biggest storylines. Brian at MGoBlog characterizes him as a "chucker" who throws up a ton of ridiculous shots and makes some, and Dylan at UMHoops compares him to Tim Frazier. He's not that great behind the arc (but makes some ridiculous threes), but he's very quick and has a solid mid-range game. Ohio's upset bid will be on the table if he goes off for 20+. If Stu Douglass (who will likely be tasked with guarding Cooper) shuts him down, Ohio's average offense will suffer. Cooper is certainly capable of scoring a lot of points and is always a high volume shooter, so limiting his effectiveness is the key.
  • Can Ohio get out in transition and score easy buckets? Michigan has done a very good job of keeping opponents from getting out in transition this year. Most of this stems from Michigan's lack of emphasis on the offensive glass, but Ohio's transition opportunities come off of their turnover-forcing ability. Much like Arkansas, if Ohio gets a steal, it usually ends up in an easy basket on the other end. Ohio's best offense comes in transition, so if Michigan can defend well off of missed field goals and turnovers, the Bobcats' anemic half-court sets will have to beat them.

Individual Matchups:

  • DJ Cooper vs. Trey Burke: This is definitely the headliner in terms of an individual macthup. Both are undersized point guards that are very good at penetrating and scoring at the hoop or from mid-range, both are the catalysts for their respective offenses and both are their teams' best players.
  • Stu Douglass vs. Nick Kellogg: I'm assuming that Douglass will guard DJ Cooper, so this isn't much of an individual matchup, but Kellogg can really shoot it and isn't very good at doing much else. If Stu can contribute a couple baskets and assists along with his defense, Michigan is in good shape.
  • Tim Hardaway, Jr. vs. Walter Offutt: Michigan definitely has an advantage in this matchup; Hardaway probably has more natural talent than anyone else on the floor in this one, and when he's at his best, he's nearly unstoppable. Offutt is a decent role player, but Hardaway's a star.
  • Zack Novak vs. Ivo Baltic: These two players really couldn't be much more different. Novak is the undersized, scrappy four man and Baltic is a hard-nosed defender that is more of a Euro-style big man on offense. Ohio should have an advantage size-wise here, but playing four-out could give Baltic issues.
  • Jordan Morgan vs. Reggie Keely: It should be a pretty even matchup between these two, so Jordan Morgan will is just as likely to put in a very good performance as he is to disappear. Keely is very aggressive on the boards, especially on offense, so Morgan will have his hands full all game long.

Predictions:

I personally have a hard time understanding why some people are so sure of the Ohio upset pick. The Bobcat defense could give us issues (but barring an Arkansas-style collapse, I think Michigan's offense should be fine) and Cooper could have an exceptional game, even if he's as likely to go 5-15 from the field, but still, Michigan has far more talent than does Ohio. Look for Tim Hardaway to play very well, enjoy the matchup between Cooper and Burke, and hope that Ohio doesn't have an answer for Michigan's screen-and-roll.

Michigan 65, Ohio 58

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