Michigan Basketball earned itself a physical and hard-earned victory over the No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes on Sunday afternoon. Now that they are 22-7 on the season, there is no longer any doubt they will be in the NCAA Tournament and could play itself off the 8/9 seed line that many have them on right now.
- I’ll be honest here: I think this Ohio State team has sort of played above its head all season long. They may not be as good as their ranking indicates, but the win is a win an their resume speaks for itself. The Wolverines let one get away in the matchup earlier this year, but proved it was the better basketball team on Sunday. This was as physical and fired up a team that we have seen take the floor this season and the tone was set early on. It would have been amazing to hear what Moritz Wagner had to say if he was mic’d up this afternoon. That guy was ready to cut a WWE-style promo and he had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand.
- Jaaron Simmons has been quiet for most of the season, but he has started to come into his own off the bench recently and he was a spark early on for the Wolverines off the bench. If he can continue to provide some solid veteran support at point guard heading into March, that is another element of this team that makes them dangerous in March.
- Perhaps the biggest departure from what we have seen from Michigan teams under John Beilein is just how much better defensively they are. In the past, this was an explosive offensive program that hoped to just get enough on the other end of the floor to get the stops they needed to win games. Now, this is a group that can say that their ability to play defense is a true calling card and a reason they have won a lot of games that they maybe should not have with cold shooting, missed field goals, etc. The biggest example of this on Sunday was the work they did on Keita Bates-Diop, who still found a way to get 17 points, but was quiet for most of the game and finished the night 5-for-17 from the floor.
- I would like to step up on the soapbox and declare Crisler Center as one of the best atmospheres in college basketball. When that venue is rocking, it is every bit as hostile as any other place in the league, despite the fact that some of the #haters out there will tweet pictures of pockets of empty seats and attendance numbers. It was sold out on Sunday and was a factor in some of the key moments of the game. Michigan may be a football school, but there are times at the Big House where it feels like a funeral in there. Those who come to basketball games often times leave without a voice, and they should be commended for that. That’s not a dig on the football program, just an observation.