Beat The Wolverines!

Ohio State played very well last night against Purdue.  In an exciting, up-tempo game, they put the pedal to the metal in the last seven minutes of the game to pull away from the Boilermakers and win, 88-71.  Their reward is . . . Michigan.

The Buckeyes and the Wolverines have played twice this year and split the two games.  In Columbus, Ohio State spanked Michigan, 64-49.  In Ann Arbor, the Buckeyes played an uninspired game, shot poorly, and lost, 56-51.  It was one of those performances that caused some to question not only the team’s capabilities, but also its character.  This afternoon, the Buckeyes have the opportunity to win the rubber game.

I don’t care if Ohio State wins the Big Ten Tournament, but any game against Michigan is, well, a game against Michigan.  And if there is such a game, Ohio State must win, period.  I don’t care if its tiddlywinks or horseshoes, the good guys must prevail and the Maize and Blue must go down to ignominious, towel-crying, teeth-gnashing, humiliated-faced-fans-leaving-early defeat.

This won’t be easy, because this Michigan team is good.  Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. are studs, the Wolverines can play an inside game and an outside game, and they have lots of experience and talented role players.  It’s a game that will help to get the Buckeyes ready for the NCAA Tournament.  When you get to the Big Dance, you’ll play athletic, well-coached teams like the Wolverines game after game, and you have to figure out how to get past them and move on.

Beat the Wolverines!

Another Battle For The Big Ten Lead

Tonight the Ohio State Buckeyes travel to Ann Arbor for a game with Michigan.  It will be a battle for the Big Ten lead.  The Buckeyes are 10-3, tied for first with Michigan State with the Wolverines just behind at 9-4.

Playing with first place in the Big Ten on the line has gotten to be old hat for the Buckeyes.  Virtually every game they’ve played lately has been with a conference contender, and for the most part — that is, with the noticeable exception of a rank performance at home against Michigan State — the Buckeyes have performed well under pressure.

The conventional wisdom is that playing lots of high-pressure games is a positive.  The Buckeyes now have many players who’ve made key free throws, clutch buckets, and important defensive plays with crucial games on the line and in hostile arenas.  When you reach the one-and-done point of the Big Ten tournament and the NCAA tournament, it’s nice to have that kind of big-game experience to fall back on.

Michigan presents another tough challenge.  The Wolverines are undefeated at home this season and their Big Ten record shows they are a good team.  In their first game, the Buckeyes shut down Zack Novak, Tim Hardaway, Jr. struggled with his shot, and the Buckeyes pulled away in the second half to win 64-49.  Tonight Aaron Craft will have to guard Michigan’s excellent point guard Trey Burke without getting into foul trouble and the Buckeyes will have to figure out how to score against the zone defense that the Wolverines are likely to play at some point during the game.  We’ll also be watching to see how Coach Thad Matta substitutes and whether freshman center Amir Williams gets some court time after a good showing against Minnesota.

Games like tonight’s contest will help to toughen up the Buckeyes, regardless of the outcome.  Since the opponent this evening is the hated Team Up North, let’s hope the outcome is a big win that allows the Buckeyes to take another step toward the Big Ten regular season championship.


Time For The Nut House To Rock The Schott!

Tomorrow the Buckeyes play the Michigan Wolverines at the Schott.  The winner will stay atop the Big Ten.  The loser is, well, the loser.

Michigan has a good team this year.  Tim Hardaway is one of the Big Ten’s best offensive players.  Jordan Morgan plays a tough inside game.  Trey Burke has been a huge help at point guard and has brought some scoring punch.  Zack Novak is the three-point specialist who is the heart and soul of the Wolverines.

This is a game with lots of intriguing matchups.  Who is going to guard Hardaway, and who is going to guard Deshaun Thomas?  Can Aaron Craft stop Burke?  Can Morgan play even up with Jared Sullinger?  Which William Buford will show up?  And is a Wolverine going to be unconscious from outside, like Brandon Paul was when the Buckeyes played Illinois earlier this year?

I went to last year’s OSU against Michigan, and it was a tremendous atmosphere.  The student section, called the Nut House, was ear-splitting all game and obviously made it tough for Michigan to communicate during timeouts.  I thought the crowd helped to pull the Buckeyes through to a win — and I’m hoping that tomorrow afternoon we see more of the same.  I know the Nut House has some new head cutouts — including Urban Meyer — that we’ll see during the game.

C’mon, Nut House!  Time to get loud and proud!