MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (17-6)
at OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (19-5)
Value City Arena – Columbus, OH
Tip-off: Tuesday, 9:00 p.m. ET
Line: Ohio State -4, Total: 129
No. 15 Michigan travels to Columbus Tuesday to take on rival No. 22 Ohio State in a game with big implications for the Big Ten race.
With the new setup of the Big Ten, these two bitter rivals will meet only once this regular season. Last season, these schools split their two matchups, with the Buckeyes winning by three points (56-53) at home, and the Wolverines prevailing by two points, 76-74 in overtime at Ann Arbor. Michigan (11-9-1 ATS) will be looking to bounce back from an 18-point loss at Iowa on Saturday, dropping the school to 3-5 ATS on the road this season. The defense of the Wolverines was especially worrisome in the 85-67 defeat, as Iowa was able to connect on 10-of-17 threes with 22 assists and just seven turnovers. While Ohio State (71.9 PPG, 164th in Div. I) is not as prolific on offense as Iowa (83.7 PPG, 10th in nation), this team has been gaining confidence with three straight victories, including two that came on the road versus ranked teams (Wisconsin and Iowa). The Buckeyes are now 12-11 ATS overall, including 7-2 ATS at home (10-1 SU), where they outscore teams by 23.5 PPG (81.5 PPG to 58.0 PPG). They are also 11-3 ATS after four straight games of committing 14 or less turnovers this season. However, Michigan is a resilient club, going 15-5 ATS in the past three seasons when coming off a loss. The defense of Ohio State (6-5 SU, 6-5 ATS in Big Ten) will be its calling card throughout the rest of the season, but it will be tested against a Wolverines team (9-2 SU, 7-4 ATS in Big Ten) with many capable scorers.
Who will prevail in this classic Big Ten rivalry game on Tuesday? For the latest college basketball picks, check out The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts selections every week throughout the entire 2013-14 season. The StatFox Experts have been rolling in college basketball Best Bets this season with a 58% ATS (198-141-11) mark, including a hefty 61% ATS (166-107-6) record since Nov. 23. StatFox Brian is at 65% ATS (44-24-2) in Best Bets for the season and 69% ATS (37-17-1) since Nov. 26. StatFox Dave is 61% ATS (42-27-1) for the season and 68% ATS (25-12) since Dec. 18, while StatFox Scott is a strong 57% ATS (39-29-2) for the season and 59% ATS (29-20-2) since Dec. 2. StatFox Zach is a solid 56% ATS (37-29-4) on Best Bets this season, including 59% ATS (31-22-3) since Nov. 22, while StatFox Gary is 53% ATS (36-32-2) for the season, and 57% ATS (30-23) since Nov. 29.
Michigan is a solid offensive team, averaging 75.7 PPG (70th in Div. I) on 48.4% FG (17th in nation) and 39.1% threes (26th in Div. I). This squad also dishes out 15.1 APG (47th in nation), while committing a mere 9.9 turnovers per game (9th-fewest in Div. I). Defensively, this team holds opponents to 64.6 PPG (48th in nation) despite a subpar 5.6 SPG (250th in Div. I) and 3.0 BPG (253rd in nation). Michigan’s biggest struggle this season has been its inability to rebound the ball, ranking 284th in the country on the glass with 32.7 RPG, and outrebounding opponents by a mere +1.6 RPG margin. The loss of PF Mitch McGary (8.3 RPG) has really hurt the team on the boards. However, this season has seen the emergence of SG Nik Stauskas (17.7 PPG, 44% threes, 3.7 APG, 3.5 RPG) is as good of shooter as there is in the country, but has become a more well-rounded offensive player in this season. But opponents have been able to shut him down lately, as the sophomore is averaging only 8.3 PPG on 5-of-15 shooting in his past three games.Joining Stauskas in the backcourt is freshman PG Derrick Walton Jr. (8.6 PPG, 2.9 APG, 2.4 RPG). As any freshman point guard experiences, Walton has had some terrific moments this season, but also had his struggles. He has the ability to hit the outside shot (40% threes), but can also get to the rim. He too needs to find his offense, scoring just 6.5 PPG on 4-of-11 FG in his past two games. Sophomore SG Caris LeVert (12.6 PPG, 39% threes, 4.4 RPG) and PF Glenn Robinson III (13.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG) are both capable of having huge nights. But while LeVert has scored at least a dozen points in five straight games (16.2 PPG) including a team-high 22 points in Saturday's loss, Robinson scored just two points on 1-of-7 FG in that lopsided defeat at Iowa.
Ohio State has been up and down this season, but is now starting to resemble the team that moved up to No. 3 in the polls when it began the season 15-0. The team doesn't score a ton, but shoots a decent percentage at 45.5% FG (114th in nation) and 35.3% threes. While rebounding has been an issue (34.4 RPG, 212th in Div. I), OSU's defense remains top-notch, allowing only 58.9 PPG (9th in nation) on 40.1% FG and a Division-I leading 26.3% threes. The Buckeyes get 7.6 SPG (50th in nation) leading to 14.7 forced turnovers per game, while the offense takes pretty good care of the ball, turning it over just 11.1 times per contest. PF LaQuinton Ross (14.2 PPG, 42% threes, 5.5 RPG) has all the ability to become a big-time star. He has reached double-figures in 14 of his past 15 games, including three games with at least 22 points. At 6-foot-8, he has the ability to play on the perimeter, but can take the smaller guards down into the post. Senior PG Aaron Craft (9.3 PPG, 4.8 APG, 3.4 RPG) is the heart and soul of this team, and is starting to find his shot, going 14-for-24 FG (58%) and 4-of-6 threes over his past four games. He has struggled turning the ball over this season with a career-high 2.4 TOPG, but does a great job of being the leader of this unit with 2.6 SPG, good for ninth in the nation. SG Lenzelle Smith Jr. (12.0 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.5 APG) is the other player on this team averaging double figures. Like Ross, Smith is a talented player, but struggles with his consistency. He has on the mark in Saturday's 67-49 blowout of Purdue though, scoring 16 points on 6-of-10 FG (4-of-7 threes). Junior PG Shannon Scott (7.8 PPG, 3.6 APG, 3.5 RPG) and junior PF Sam Thompson (7.2 PPG, 36% threes, 2.9 RPG) are both capable of having big games, and will be key to Ohio State the rest of the way. In such a big rivalry, you know both teams are going to play very hard. A big key will be whichever team is able to dominate the glass, something that both teams have struggled with all season.