The No. 19 Michigan basketball team welcomes No. 6 Ohio State to Ann Arbor on Saturday for a grudge match.
Last time around, the Buckeyes ran away with the 64-49 win with a big performance from Lenzelle Smith Jr. (17 points, 12 rebounds). But the Wolverines are undefeated at the Crisler Center, including victories over Michigan State and Wisconsin.
The stakes are pretty high, and this might be the last time seniors Stu Douglass and Zack Novak have a chance to face up against a team that has continually beaten them down over their Michigan careers.
1.) Take good shots. It seems pretty simple, and Novak said last week that it’s much easier to win games when the Wolverines are shooting well. But what Michigan needs to focus on is taking high-percentage shots. Sophomore guard Tim Hardaway Jr. can’t be expected to knock down shots consistently when he has three guys on him as he’s fading away from beyond the 3-point arc. Nor can freshman point guard Trey Burke expect to take the ball from coast to coast, drive into the lane and hit a stop-and-pop jump shot over Jared Sullinger. But if the Wolverines make the extra pass when it’s warranted and take the open shots that are given to them, they will have a much better chance to make those shots.
2.) Take advantage of the mismatches. Michigan can’t match up one-on-one with Sullinger very well. And that has been the storyline of this rivalry over the past two seasons. But the Wolverines have a few mismatches of their own. I would take Novak and Hardaway Jr. (if he’s on) over their matchups any day. If Michigan can make the most of those mismatches and diminish the impact of Sullinger, good things could happen.
3.) Feed off the crowd. Michigan has sold out almost every Big Ten game, but fans are clamoring to get these tickets. I don’t think there will be an open seat in the house, and Crisler will be very, very loud. With the Maize Rage (Michigan’s student section) directly behind both team’s benches, the students can get into the Buckeyes’ heads while pumping up the Wolverines. People are going to be rowdy, fans are going to be into this game. It will be a great atmosphere that the Wolverines can use to their advantage.