Saturday, March 10, 2012

Big Ten Tournament Round 3: Ohio vs. Michigan

WOW.  That's about all I can say after last night's Michigan vs. Minnesota game.  It was close throughout, went to overtime, and had an epic comeback by Michigan to win it.  Regardless of what some people might say, it doesn't really matter if Michigan had blown out Minnesota or not, they still won.  As Coach Bacari tweeted earlier today, "In order to get to Sunday, we have to be very aggressive in everything we do.  We are not interested in moral victories."

Winning by 30 over the "bad" opponents would be nice and all, but it doesn't really change anything.  Sure it probably makes the team and fans feel great, but let's compare MSU and Michigan's games in Round 2 of the Big Ten Tournament quickly  MSU cruised to an easy win over Iowa.  Michigan won in OT against Minnesota.  They're both in the semi-finals.  Sure, MSU gets to play Wisconsin instead of OSU, which is probably a lot easier, but that is because of tournament seeding and nothing to do with that game's result.  So, as I pointed out, a win is a win and Michigan fans should be happy that the Wolverines are moving on after that scare.

With that, let's get to the real topic today.  Ohio.  They are one of the three teams that split the Big Ten Championship and are certainly going to be vying for some revenge after their last game with Michigan, where the Wolverines won in the closing seconds.  Also, as I discussed earlier this week, Thad Matta and Ohio have been great in the Big Ten Tournament the last few seasons, which makes them even more dangerous.  If Michigan starts slow like they did against Minnesota, the Wolverines will have no chance against the Buckeyes.  The important thing is to come out playing with fire and not give up any early deficits.

As I previewed here and here, you can see that the major key, as always, when a team plays the Buckeyes is addressing Jared Sullinger.  In the Big Ten Awards Show, he was selected as 1st Team All-Big Ten and is simply an amazing player.  But that's enough praise for him.  Michigan did a pretty nice job stopping him both times this year and I think they can continue today.  Stopping him is always priority #1, but the Buckeyes certainly have some great players elsewhere.

Buford and Thomas will be the main offensive threats the Wolverines have to address if they look to come out with the win today.  However, along with this, Craft is one of the best defensive players in the Big Ten and was actually awarded this by the Big Ten.  He'll be covering Burke all night and this could be just as important as Sullinger, Buford, and Thomas's contributions.  Regardless, Michigan's going to have to play tough defense if they want to be able to overcome the size advantage Ohio offers and be in position to win.

I think Michigan has a great chance, especially since they've beaten the Buckeyes already this year, but I think Ohio will win this one today.  Not necessarily because they're the better team, but primarily because they are dynamite in the Big Ten Tournament.  It should be a tight game that can go either way, but I'm going to have to lean towards the 'dark side' today.

My Magic Pick Is...

Ohio 68-63

Photo Credit: Thomas Beindit

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