Hoops Semifinal Preview: Ohio State

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

After both squads barely survived their quarterfinal matchup, the Buckeyes and Wolverines meet in the semifinal matchup, their second meeting this season.

Date: Saturday, March 15

Time: 1:40 ET

Place: Bankers Life Fieldhouse--Indianapolis, Ind.

TV: ESPN

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Yesterday's quarterfinal matchup saw Michigan struggle against the zone in the second half, relinquish a double-digit lead only to survive by the good graces of the rims on the offensive and defensive ends.

Nonetheless, a win is a win, and Michigan marches on to face Ohio State in the semifinals.

Season So Far

Ohio State was basically Wisconsin this season minus the strong schedule and the blazing end-of-season winning streak. The Buckeyes started 15-0, reaching as high in the polls as No. 3 before hitting a rough patch in which they lost five of six.

However, the Buckeyes did turn it around from there, going 7-3 the rest of the way. In the conference tournament, OSU edged out Purdue in the first round, 63-61, and overcame an 18-point deficit with 13:45 remaining against Nebraska yesterday to win 71-67.

Personnel

Again, I'll keep it short--by know, you should know who these guys are.

Eleventy billionth-year senior Aaron Craft leads the way at the point, contributing all the heart and grit that Dan Dakich holds dear. That sounds sarcastic, but it's true; Craft makes the Buckeyes go, even if he doesn't fill it up like a score-first point guard.

In the front court, LaQuinton Ross and Amir Williams attack the boards for the Buckeyes. Michigan has had trouble with them in the past. The duo grabbed seven rebounds apiece in the matchup against Michigan in Columbus way back on Feb. 11.

Lenzelle Smith is a guy who has been around who can do damage in transition and can knock down a three if you let him. He shoots 35 percent from downtown.

Shannon Scott shoots just 27 percent from three and averages 7.2 ppg but provides an excellent complement to Craft in the backcourt defensively.

Game Keys

  • Clean up the boards. Simply put, Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford, etc. need to limit the Buckeyes' "garbage" points on second chance opportunities. The Buckeyes' trouble with scoring in the halfcourt is well-documented at this point.
  • Slow it down. In the same vein, limiting the Buckeyes' transition opportunities will go a long way toward keeping them in the 50s or 60s. Keep the game at a steady pace, take wise shots and you're sitting pretty.
  • Shoot the ball, Mississaugan. Nik Stauskas will likely be hounded by Craft for significant portions of the game. As he's done in the past, he has to be ready to take shots over the top of his man, whether it's Craft or someone else. There won't be many perfect looks in this one. Stauskas et al will just have to known down the shots they're given. You know, #WinTheGame and whatnot.
Outlook

Again, really...who knows? The Big Ten Tournament and the Big Dance are just about as random as you can get in the sporting world. One off night from the field and you're bounced.

Michigan is a better team, but, this time of year, "better" is a word that loses all its meaning.
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