Ohio State-Michigan Mega Preview: Key Matchups, Predictions, More

Ohio State-Michigan Mega Preview: Key Matchups, Predictions, More article feature image

Keita Bates-Diop

Believe it or not, we actually have three college basketball top-25 showdowns to bet on before we all watch Bestbrook try to score 100 points in tonight’s NBA All Star Game. Let’s take a deep dive into all the angles for one of those marquee matchups:

  • Ohio State at Michigan (-3) – 1 p.m. ET on CBS

Ohio State at Michigan (-3) | O/U: 132.5

1 p.m. ET on CBS

The Setup

By Stuckey

Ohio State is coming off a 23-point beatdown loss in Happy Valley in a game it trailed by 24 at the half. The Buckeyes fell to 0-2 against Penn State on the season, but haven’t lost to any other team in the conference (13-0).

Michigan has won four of five, but against pretty weak competition. The Wolverines are 16-1 at home this season, but that one loss came against the only top 50 RPI team they have faced at home (Purdue). The Wolverines’ best RPI home win this year came in overtime against UCLA (No. 52) in a game they probably should have lost.

These two teams faced each other way back on Dec. 4 in a game Ohio State won by nine points as a two-point home favorite. However, that final margin is severely misleading. Michigan actually led 43-23 with 1:34 left in the first half before Ohio State went on an extended 26-3 run over the next 10 game minutes to take a three-point lead. The score then stayed close until the Buckeyes broke a 60-60 tie with an 11-2 run to close out the final three minutes. Ohio State has won three straight overall in the series, including a win in Ann Arbor last season.

The Stakes

By Stuckey

Outside of the bitter rivalry and bragging rights, this is actually an important game for each team’s tournament profile. Both are safely in the tournament field, but a win on Sunday could significantly impact seeding, especially since it is extremely difficult to pick up quality wins in a very down year for the Big Ten.

Michigan does have one extremely impressive win on its resume, a road victory at Michigan State. However, that is its only top-50 RPI win on the season. The Wolverines could really use another marquee win to boost their seeding profile.

As a result of Purdue’s three-game losing streak, the Big Ten regular-season championship is now essentially a two-horse race between Michigan State and Ohio State. With a win today, the Buckeyes would move into a tie for first with a Spartans team they defeated earlier this season. Both teams have two relatively easy games to finish the season. On the other hand, a Michigan win would go a long way in helping its in-state rival Michigan State win its 14th regular season championship.

In regards to the Big Ten conference tournament, the top four seeds get a double bye. Regardless of today’s outcome, the Buckeyes will be one of those four teams that avoids the first two rounds. The picture isn’t as clear for Michigan, which currently sits in the fifth slot, one game behind Nebraska. A win today would significantly improve Michigan’s chances of getting that coveted double bye, as it looks to defend last year’s tournament championship.

Sharp Report

By PJ Walsh

Check back throughout the day for context into any significant line movement or material market info.

Situational Angle

By Stuckey

You can throw out the Michigan revenge angle or the thought that Ohio State will have extra focus after the Penn State loss. This is the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry. Both teams will be fully engaged.

Schematically Speaking

By Jordan Majewski

When Michigan Has The Ball

The Buckeyes’ versatile wings allow them to switch on every screen. That’s certainly problematic for John Beilein’s ubiquitous “2 Guard” ball-screen offense. That said, Beilein will know what to tweak after breaking down the film of the first meeting. There are few coaches in college basketball who I respect more than Beilein in terms of offensive game planning.

I have no doubt Michigan will be able to methodically attack mismatches within its pick-and-roll offense. Additionally, 6-foot-11 forward Moritz Wagner is a match-up problem for the Buckeyes. Andre Wesson (6-foot-6) can’t guard him outside of the paint, which will force Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann to make offense-for-defense substitutions. That means Musa Jallow, who significantly hinders the OSU offense, will come off the bench more frequently as an extra help defender. If Michigan forces Jallow to stay on the floor, not only will the OSU offense suffer, but I also trust Beilein to eventually find ways to exploit that lineup.

When Ohio State Has The Ball

Ohio State is a rim-dependent offense. Holtmann has done a phenomenal job of highlighting the strengths of his roster relative to the weaknesses of the rest of the Big Ten. The Buckeyes have the best unconventional post offense in the league. Yes, they run a fair amount through traditional post Kaleb Wesson, but OSU has one of the best 2-point offenses in the country because probable B1G POY Keita Bates Diop (pictured above) can post up less athletic 4s and Jae’Sean Tate can do the same against smaller 3s.

The offensive ability of Bates-Diop and Tate isn’t just limited to the post, as they’re both very comfortable attacking the rim. Not many 3s and 4s in the league can match their versatility. In the first meeting with Michigan, KBD and Tate successfully attacked the less physical Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahman and Charles Matthews. This isn’t a disadvantage that Beilein will be able to make disappear with scheme.

Don’t Forget About the Freebies

By Stuckey

Anybody who bets college basketball on a regular basis knows how many bets are seemingly decided at the charity stripe, especially late in the season when spreads tighten. That is one of the reasons I will be avoiding Michigan as a favorite down the stretch. The Wolverines rank 341st in the country in free throw percentage at 64.2%. Only 10 D-1 teams shoot the rock at a lower rate than that.

Michigan doesn’t foul often (45th in the country in fouls per possession), but when it does, Ohio State should convert at an above average clip. The Buckeyes rank 84th in the country in free throw shooting at 73.9%.

Trends Favoring the Maize and Blue

By Evan Abrams and John Ewing

Unranked Penn State embarrassed Ohio State 79-56 on Thursday. Ranked teams coming off a loss of 20 or more points to an unranked opponent have gone 21-36 (37%) ATS in the following game since 2005.

Over the past decade, Beilein has had significant success against top-10 opponents. Here are some highlights:

  • 23-14 ATS (62%) overall, third-most profitable active coach
  • 11-6 ATS at home (64.7%), fourth-most profitable active coach
  • 9-2 ATS in his past 11 games against top 10 foes

What’s Your Favorite Bet?

Jordan: Michigan -3
Stuckey: Pass

Editor’s note: The opinion on this game is from the individual writers, and is based on their research, analysis and perspective. It is independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.

Top photo via Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports