announced earlier this week, Michigan will be tipping off against Ohio tomorrow night in their 1st NCAA Tournament game. There's already been a lot of speculation about the game, primarily focusing on previous relationships and D.J. Cooper of the Bobcats, but this should be pretty competitive. I'd like to predict that Michigan should dominant the Bobcats, but to be honest, they probably won't. They will likely come out with their typical tournament intensity, which vaulted them to a record-setting win against Tennessee last season, but probably not enough to flat-out dominate the Bobcats.
So, let's get started. D. J. Cooper is Ohio's best player by a significant margin. Imagine Trey Burke, but if the other players had even less contributions. He leads the Bobcats in minutes, points per game, assists, and steals. That's pretty impressive for one player. Typically, a point guard will rank pretty high in these statistical categories, but he even does well in categories such as rebounds and blocks. Regardless, when you take a quick look at the stats sheet, it's pretty obvious that Cooper is the primary contributor.
However, there is one aspect of the game that is a struggle for Cooper, and that's turnovers. He may lead his team in steals with 2.4 a game, but he also turns over the ball 2.8 times a game. Essentially, his steals give the Bobcats no statistical advantage because he gives it all up in turnovers. Now, this doesn't mean that Cooper offers no advantage. In fact, Trey Burke has the same turnover rate that Cooper has had this season. So, possession-wise, Ohio is actually ahead of Michigan.
This is certainly an advantage for Ohio, which makes them very dangerous, but it's not the only important factor. Ohio can score a lot and can play some solid defense, but I think the big challenge for them on Friday is to somehow find a way to score without relying too much on Cooper. Ohio's faced a few tough teams this season, such as Louisville and Oakland, but I'm not sure that they've faced a defense as good as Michigan. Statistically, Louisville's defense ranks pretty close to Michigan's (both teams give up about 61 points per game). However, Michigan's had one of the most difficult schedules in the country, which obviously has an influence on these types of categories.
My prediction is that Stu Douglass will be asked to defend Cooper for much of the night and will turn him into a non-factor for the most part. He will certainly get some points and make some plays, but I really don't see him tearing up the Wolverines for a ton of points. With this in mind, expect Burke to turn the ball over a few times, but be able to make some plays as well. I think this should be a pretty close game as both teams are probably a bit underrated, but Michigan should have enough to come out on top.
My Magic Pick Is...
Photo Credit: Kirthman F. Dozier