TheWolverine – Michigan vs. Ohio State Preview, Lineup Breakdown …

Ohio State basketball

TheWolverine – Michigan vs. Ohio State Preview, Lineup Breakdown …

Expect U-M senior forward Isaiah Livers and sophomore wing Franz Wagner to see some time checking Liddell, who is heavily involved in the Buckeyes dribble …

Michigan Wolverines Basketball: How To Watch Michigan Basketball vs. Ohio State, Betting Line, TV Channel, More

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Michigan vs. Ohio State Preview, Lineup Breakdown, Prediction & More

Clayton Sayfie

TheWolverine

Staff Writer

No. 3 Michigan Wolverines basketball (15-1, 10-1 Big Ten) is set to take on the No. 4-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (18-4, 12-4 Big Ten) Sunday afternoon in what is potentially the game of the year in the sport and a contest with plenty of implications on the conference title race.

The Wolverines are 2-0 since its 23-day break between games due to an athletic department-wide shutdown. Ohio State is a winner of seven straight games and hasn’t lost since Jan. 19.

Ohio State has the nation’s third-ranked offense in adjusted efficiency, and are led by sophomore forward E.J. Liddell. At 6-foot-7, Liddell is averaging 15.5 points per game and adds 6.6. rebounds per contest. He is a threat from just about anywhere on the floor, making him a tough matchup for opposing bigs. He scores 0.977 points per possession on post-ups, per Synergy, and shoots 50.7 percent overall and 34.1 percent from long range.

Michigan freshman center Hunter Dickinson, at 7-1, has struggled to guard stretch bigs on the perimeter. Expect U-M senior forward Isaiah Livers and sophomore wing Franz Wagner to see some time checking Liddell, who is heavily involved in the Buckeyes’ dribble handoff and pick and roll offensive sets. Dickinson may be a better fit to guard Ohio State senior forward Kyle Young.

Ohio State junior guard Duane Washington Jr. averaged 18.5 points per game in two outings against the Wolverines a year ago. His height, at 6-4, can give the 6-foot-1 Brooks — who is Michigan’s best on-ball defender — trouble at times, as he’s a tremendous pull-up jump shooter.

Michigan ranks seventh nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, meaning the Buckeyes will face a tough task when they have the ball.

While the matchup between the Buckeyes’ offense and the Wolverines’ defense may be the most intriguing, the game may be won or lost on the other end of the floor.

Michigan’s offense also ranks seventh in the country in adjusted efficiency, while the Buckeyes are 65th in defense. Dickinson, who’s averaging 14.6 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, and Michigan’s front court have the size advantage on Liddell and the Scarlet and Gray down low. In addition, Livers has scored 20 or more points in three of his last four games and can play both inside and out.

Michigan shoots threes at 38 percent, which is good enough for 23rd in the country, while Ohio State lets its opponents get off a lot of attempts from deep (39.8 percent of opposing shots come from beyond the arc) and are 176th nationally in three-point field goal percentage defense.

Below is everything you need to know ahead of this afternoon’s game, including notes on every significant player, key statistics, a Q&A with Marcus Horton of and more.

Michigan Wolverines basketball head coach Juwan Howard has his team off to a 10-1 start in Big Ten play. (AP Images)

Michigan Wolverines Basketball vs. Ohio State Buckeyes: What Time Is The Game? What Is The Betting Line? How To Watch / Stream, More

Date: Sunday, Feb. 21

Time: 1:02 p.m. ET

Venue: The Schottenstein Center (Columbus, Ohio)

Channel: CBS (Stream: CBS All Access)

On The Call: Kevin Harlan (play-by-play) & Bill Raftery (analyst)

Radio: Detroit: WWJ-Radio (950 AM) | Ann Arbor: WWWW (102.9 FM)

On The Call: Brian Boesch (play-by-play) & Terry Mills (analyst)

Line: Michigan -1.5

Over/Under: 147

KenPom Prediction: Ohio State 75, Michigan 74

Clayton Sayfie Prediction: Michigan 76, Ohio State 73

Michigan Wolverines Projected Lineup

#12 – Fifth-year senior guard Mike Smith (5-11, 185) — The Columbia grad transfer is averaging 8.4 points and 5.3 assists per game (leads the Big Ten), while shooting 47 percent from the field and 48.6 percent from deep (20th in the country).

#55 – Senior guard Eli Brooks (6-1, 185) — Posting 8.5 points, 3.4 assists and three rebounds per contest … Shoots 40.4 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from long range … Is considered Michigan’s best defender.

#21 – Sophomore guard Franz Wagner (6-9, 220) — Averaging 12.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, while shooting 51 percent from the floor … Shooting the three at 36.5 percent for the season.

#2 – Senior forward Isaiah Livers (6-7, 230) — Second on the team in scoring with 14.5 points per game … Also adds 6.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per contest, while shooting 47.9 percent overall and 43.5 percent from three.

#1 – Freshman center Hunter Dickinson (7-1, 255) — Leads the team in scoring with 14.6 points per game, and adds 7.8 rebounds (leads the squad) per night, while shooting 64.6 percent from the field.

Key Bench Players

#15 – Senior guard Chaundee Brown (6-5, 215) — Averaging 8.1 points and 3.2 rebounds per game off the bench in 19.8 minutes … Is connecting on 46.2 percent of his overall looks and 38.6 percent of his attempts from deep.

#23 – Junior forward Brandon Johns Jr. (6-8, 240) — Plays the four and five spot off the bench … Averages 4.4 points and 2.2 rebounds per contest and is shooting 61.9 percent from the field.

55 – Fifth-year senior forward Austin Davis (6-10, 250) — Averaging 6.2 points and 3.1 rebounds per game in 12 minutes of work … Shooting 69.8 percent from the field.

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Ohio State Buckeyes Projected Lineup

#4 – Junior guard Duane Washington Jr. (6-3, 210) — The Grand Rapids, Mich., native is second on the team in scoring with 14.9 points per game, while also adding 2.9 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game … Shoots 38.2 percent overall and 38.1 percent from long range.

#10 – Junior forward Justin Ahrens (6-6, 195) — The sharpshooter is connecting on 47.2 percent of his overall looks and 46.7 percent of his shots from deep … Averages 7.2 points and two rebounds per game.

#14 – Redshirt junior forward Justice Sueing (6-7, 215) — Posting 10.5 points, 5.8 boards and 1.9 assists per game, while shooting 49.7 percent from the field and just 29.5 percent from beyond the arc.

#25 – Senior forward Kyle Young (6-8, 225) — Puts up 8.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, while shooting 55.7 percent overall and 34.8 (low volume at 8-of-23) from long range.

#32 – Sophomore forward E.J. Liddell (6-7, 240) — Leads the team offensively with 15.5 points per game, and also notches 6.6 rebounds per outing … Shoots 50.7 percent from the field and 34.1 percent from three.

Key Bench Players

#13 – Fifth-year senior guard C.J. Walker (6-1, 195) — Began the year as a starter, missed four games in January and now comes off the bench … Averages 29.5 minutes per game and plays the majority of the point guard minutes for the Buckeyes (67 percent over the last five games) … Registers 8.7 points, 4.3 assists and 2.7 rebounds per tilt, while shooting 33.9 percent overall and 25 percent from three.

#2 – Redshirt junior guard Musa Jallow (6-5, 210) — Sees 14 minutes of action per game as a wing … Averages 3.3 points and 2.2 rebounds per game, while shooting 48.9 percent from the field.

#31 – Fifth-year senior forward Seth Towns (6-8, 230) — The Harvard graduate transfer puts up 4.3 points and 1.8 rebounds in 10 minutes per game at the power forward spot, while shooting 48.1 percent overall and 36.7 percent from three-point range.

#23 – Freshman forward Zed Key (6-8, 245) — Plays 12.4 minutes per game primarily as the backup to Liddell … Averages six points and 3.8 rebounds per game, while shooting 64 percent from three.

Team Statistics

Category
Michigan
Ohio State

PPG

78.4

77.5

Opp. PPG

64.9

68.0

FG%

49.9

45.6

Opp. FG%

37.7

41.4

3FG%

38.0

35.5

Opp. 3FG%

32.0

33.1

Turnovers per game

12.4

10.3

Kenpom Adjusted Efficiency Ratings

Category
Michigan
Ohio State

Overall

4th

6th

Offense

7th

3rd

Defense

7th

65th

Tempo

221st

244th

There are 357 teams in Division I

Q&A With Marcus Horton Of Buckeye Grove

The Wolverine: Ohio State’s offense is a juggernaut right now, ranking third nationally in offensive efficiency. What’s the biggest reason for the Buckeyes’ success on that end of the floor?

Horton: It’s hard to truly pinpoint a single reason why this Ohio State offense has been so successful. It comes down to this group being good (but not great) from nearly everywhere on the court. We’ve seen games where the Buckeyes have dominated opponents down low behind E.J. Liddell and Kyle Young, nights where Justin Ahrens and Duane Washington Jr. have caught fire from the perimeter, and contests where Liddell’s mid-range game simply overwhelmed a defense. I think the biggest positive about the Ohio State offense this season is that it can legitimately come from anywhere on the court– there is no robotic, defined sequence of events that takes place every trip down the court like we’ve seen in years past.

Liddell has been used as a go-to guy when the Buckeyes have needed a basket, but so has Washington, and so has Ahrens, and so has Justice Sueing. Toss in a top-30 free throw shooting percentage and the fact that Ohio State rarely commits live-ball turnovers and the outcome is an offense that doesn’t have many bad possessions. The fact that Chris Holtmann routinely uses six players off the bench helps, too– you truly never know who will come in and provide a scoring punch. At least one bench player has scored eight or more points in each of the Buckeyes’ past seven contests.

In short, Ohio State always seems to make shots when shots need to be made. The offensive attack is versatile enough to keep a defense on its toes, while at the same time limiting mistakes and taking advantage of every possible mismatch.

The Wolverine: E.J. Liddell is having a great season. How has he matched up with bigger opposing centers like Hunter Dickinson?

Horton: On the offensive end, Liddell is a load for bigger centers to deal with. He torched Kofi Cockburn by stepping out beyond the arc and daring the Illinois big man to defend him on the perimeter. He went right at Luka Garza whenever the two were matched up, exposing Garza in the midrange and again having his way on the perimeter against a slower player. Liddell has struggled against post doubles (like he saw against Purdue and Northwestern), though, often forcing a contested shot or making a slow read that leads to a turnover. With that being said, his improved ball skills on the perimeter and effectiveness in the midrange are a tough cover for any true center.

There’s little to no chance that Holtmann will leave Liddell alone on defense against someone as skilled as Hunter Dickinson in the post. Ohio State will probably start with Kyle Young on Dickinson and throw in on-and-off post doubles with Liddell or Justice Sueing. Against the aforementioned Cockburn and Garza, there was rarely single coverage. Since the Buckeyes lack the size to truly defend a player like Dickinson straight up, they’ll constantly throw multiple bodies at him to preserve fouls while still attempting to make life difficult in the post.

The Wolverine: How would you assess Ohio State’s defense?

Horton: The defense appeared to be making real strides before Penn State absolutely tore through it for the better part of Thursday night’s game. Still, it has undoubtedly been an issue for the majority of this season. Since Holtmann took over in 2017, Ohio State hasn’t finished worse than No. 25 in national defensive efficiency. The Buckeyes currently sit well below No. 50. Holtmann starts two very suspect perimeter defenders in Ahrens and Washington, and two undersized big men in Liddell and Young. The results have been what you’d expect– Ohio State rarely turns teams over (15.8 percent defensive turnover rate) and allows a relatively high percentage on 2-pointers (46.5 percent).

When Ahrens isn’t completely dialed in, he can be consistently exposed on defense. When things aren’t physical enough on the interior, the Buckeyes can become a turnstile in the paint. When screen coverage isn’t operating on a string, opponents have gone on 3-point barrages. Because of its issues with size, a lot has to be clicking for this team to play at its highest level on defense.

Depth has been the reason the ceiling hasn’t completely caved in on that end of the court. Musa Jallow, Sueing, and Walker have been positives guarding the perimeter all season long. Young and freshman Zed Key are physical defenders under the basket. Liddell is a shot-blocker. The individual pieces are certainly there, it has just been a matter of cohesion and attention to detail for the better part of this season.

The Wolverine: Finish this sentence: Ohio State wins if ___________.

Horton: Ohio State wins if it can limit Dickinson, control the glass on both ends, and find some success scoring inside the 3-point line. Much like football, everything will come down to controlling the trenches in this game.

The Wolverine: Final score prediction and how you see the game playing out?

Horton: This is going to be a fun one. Dickinson should feast against whoever matches up with him, but I’d expect Liddell and Washington to have big days in what could be the most important regular season game of their careers so far. This may be one of the most difficult games to predict this season because I don’t see either team pulling ahead by more than five points or so throughout the afternoon.

Michigan’s edge clearly rests in its unmatched combination of size and skill, while Ohio State presents the best offense Michigan has seen thus far and will try with all its might to expose any rust the Wolverines are still feeling after their COVID pause. It’s a shame home-court advantage is significantly less important this year, because the Schottenstein Center would have been rocking for this one. With that being said, I’ll still lean the Buckeyes’ way. Let’s make up for a fall without football. Ohio State 81, Michigan 77

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