This afternoon the Ohio State men’s basketball team welcomes the Michigan Wolverines to the Schott. It will be the first conference game in years where the rest of the Big Ten is rooting for the Buckeyes to win.
During most of Thad Matta’s highly successful tenure as the Ohio State coach, the Buckeyes have been at the top of the Big Ten. They’ve dominated the Wolverines and knocked them out of the Big Ten Tournament three years in a row. This year, though, the tables are turned. Michigan is unbeaten and, with Duke’s loss yesterday, will be ranked number 1 in the land if they can beat the Buckeyes today. Ohio State, on the other hand, has seen its offensive struggles continue and isn’t the overwhelming force of the past few years. The Buckeyes got crushed on the road at Illinois and will have to play their best game of the year to beat the Wolverines.
Michigan is talented and deep. They’ve got the best point guard in the conference in Trey Burke, who dishes out assists and leads the Wolverines in scoring. Tim Hardaway, Jr. and freshmen Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III also average double-digit point production. The Wolverines have shot better than 50 percent from the field and are averaging more than 80 points a game. Ohio State fans would love to see the Buckeyes put up those kinds of statistics.
The Big Ten is supposed to be competitive this year. For that to happen, teams like Ohio State must beat the Michigans, Indianas, and Minnesotas at home and win on the road against the weaker teams. So far in conference play, Michigan has beaten Northwestern, Iowa, and Nebraska, three of the struggling teams. Buckeye Nation hopes that Ohio State introduces Michigan to a real, full-throated, hostile Big Ten environment today at the Schott. I’m expecting the Buckeye Nut House — the student section located behind the visitors bench — to scream their brains out and get treated for laryngitis tomorrow. With a little help from the crowd, Ohio State could pull off an upset.
Edited to add: Ohio State got out to a big lead in the first half, then held on for dear life to hand the Wolverines their first loss. The crowd seemed to be really into the game, and their enthusiasm clearly helped the Buckeyes.