Pick – Analysis
Ohio State gets a full week between its Games against the Mitten State, but that doesn’t make things any easier, even in a down season for both of the teams. The Wolverines are struggling, but there’s no doubt they’ll play up for this Game against their heated rival.
Things haven’t been going great for Michigan this year, starting early in the season with their home losses to NJIT and Eastern Michigan. And then the injuries started to pile up for their best players, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. It’s a depleted team, yet continues to battle, as seen in close Games against some of the best in the conference: Wisconsin, at Michigan State and Indiana. They struggled Tuesday against MSU, but that may have been more in part due to a hungry Spartans team.
Ohio State knows this, especially going into Ann Arbor. It’s not going to be a free win for the Buckeyes despite beating Michigan by 19 points in the first matchup in Columbus. UM even had LeVert and Walton for that Game. OSU has had issues on the road, however, winning only two of their last six Games away from home.
The obvious guy to watch is Player of the Year candidate freshman D’Angelo Russell. He is everything for the Buckeyes, and he’s coming off one of his worst Games of the year at Michigan State in which he scored only 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting. The Wolverines will likely put Zak Irvin on him when they aren’t in zone because it’s not likely their guards like Spike Albrecht will be able to keep up, although Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman could see time on him as well. No matter the case, Russell usually has an advantage on whoever guards him. He scored 21 points with 6 assists in the first meeting.
Another help for Ohio State will be the likely return of significant minutes for Marc Loving in their lineup. He returned from suspension against MSU, yet only played five minutes. He’s the Buckeyes second-leading scorer so his role is fairly important, especially on the road. With Loving gone, Jae-Sean Tate has really picked up his Game and he wasn’t really a factor in the first Game. Shannon SCott will have the edge at the guard spot and is coming off one of his best scoring Games of the season.
It’s an uphill battle for the Wolverines, there’s no doubt about that, but as seen in recent Games, this is a team that will fight no matter who is on the cOurt, John Beilein will see to that. Zak Irvin is Michigan’s most important player because he’s one of the only guys left that can create shots for himself. Unfortunately, that has led to a lot of forced shots and bad looks. Abdur-Rahkman has stepped up his Game at times, but is still raw after having not played much in the first half of the season. OUtside of them, Spike Albrecht will be matched with Shannon SCott, and that’s not an easy matchup for him. But if the Wolverines even want a chance here, Albrecht will need to have at least 10 points, likely more.
If this is a close Game (which it should be), it’s hard to see how this Michigan team will pull out a win with the squad they have. That’s been the problem in recent Games, as they don’t have anyone to take over at the end of a Game. As for the Buckeyes, they have no problem doing that with D’Angelo Russell.
Our Prediction – Ohio State by 3