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College Basketball Pick
Michigan's time as the country's No. 1 team was short-lived. That's what usually happens when you have to go on the road to face the preseason No. 1 and one of the most raucous fan bases in the nation. It doesn't get much easier for the Wolverines who now have to face Ohio State again, a team that gave them their first loss of the season less than a month ago in Columbus.
The Buckeyes are on a four-game win streak and sit with the same 7-2 conference record as Michigan. A loss here will leave either team two games behind conference-leader Indiana.
Like most teams in the Big 10, Ohio State has struggled on the road. They were throttled by Illinois a month ago and lost a tough one at Michigan State a couple weeks ago. Even at Nebraska, the Buckeyes could never really separate themselves completely in a seven-point win. Now they have to travel to Ann Arbor to play a Michigan squad that's undefeated there. The Wolverines closest conference games at home are 15-point wins over Nebraska and Purdue. Granted, they haven't had to face the Big 10's top six teams at home yet.
Already with a win over the Wolverines, OSU knows how to beat them. Both Aaron Craft and Trey Burke played 37 minutes in that last game. That's not a coincidence as Craft had one role in that game, locking down Burke. Burke finished with 4-of-13 shooting and still led his team in scoring with 15 points, but it was one of his lowest outputs of the season. Also unsurprisingly in that game, Deshaun Thomas had 20 points while none of his teammates reached double-digits. That has been the norm for the Buckeyes for most of the season, although they got some help in other areas in their last win over Nebraska.
On Saturday, Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored a season-high 21 points on 6-of-6 shooting (3-for-3 behind the arc) and was the one hitting big shots for Ohio State. Craft also put in 14, something he's only done three other times this year. That's where the bigger question comes in, though. Can these guys step up on the road in a bigger environment? Thomas has shown he can do it anywhere he plays (six threes, 28 points at Michigan State), but what about his help? Michigan will do their best to lockdown on Thomas and someone else will have to step up, maybe that can be Smith Jr. again.
Burke knows he struggled in their last game against the Buckeyes which should make his motivation that much more to beat Craft. It wasn't just him in that game struggled as freshman shooter Nik Stauskas went scoreless in Columbus. That was the only game all season for Stauskas in which he didn't reach double-digits (excluding their win over Slippery Rock in the season opener). In conference play, his three-point shooting has taken a dip, but not his scoring. It will take a lot of work for Stauskas to go scoreless again against OSU.
Michigan still has plenty more options which is why they only lost by three points when Burke struggled in the previous meeting. Tim Hardaway Jr. is having a great junior season, shooting 48% from the field and 41% from three. Consider he only shot 28% from beyond the arc last year, he's been one of the reasons Michigan got to be a top team. Freshman Glenn Robinson III scores close to 12 points per game, but is used mainly for his defensive prowess. He played all 40 minutes against Indiana on Saturday, yet finished with only two points on 1-of-6 shooting.
The Wolverines haven't lost at home all year and are favored to continue that streak. The Buckeyes will have to match their intensity from the previous matchup and then some.
Predicted Score - Ohio St 61 Michigan 68
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