On the surface asking which NCAAM's team, Ohio State or Michigan, is more dangerous seems like a painfully obvious exercise.
One team, the Wolverines, is undefeated and arguably the best squad in the country, while the other team, the Buckeyes, has lost to the three quality teams it has played.
However, things aren’t always so black and white in the world of college basketball, especially when discussing two bitter rivals in the nation's best conference.
First things first: Ohio State and Michigan face off in Columbus on Sunday with a lot more than just another league victory on the line.
The Wolverines’ star point guard, Trey Burke, is a Columbus-bred kid who grew up wanting to be a Buckeye. The fact that his hometown coach, Thad Matta, elected not to recruit him undoubtedly festers in the back his mind.
Matching up against Burke is the current Ohio State point guard, Aaron Craft, who is both loved and questioned by the Buckeye Nation every time he takes the floor.
Craft will be defending Burke during the game, but he will also be defending his pride against fans that pine for what could have been had Matta recruited Burke instead.
And of course bragging rights are at stake for two of the most raucous fanbases in all of college sports.
Fanbases that also just so happen to hate each other.
So which team will give its fans a chance to brag into March as the more dangerous team going forward?
Let’s start with the squad that everyone had written off heading into the Big Ten season.
Ohio State played perhaps its most complete game of the year Tuesday at Purdue, a game that it absolutely had to have following the debacle at Illinois.
Deshaun Thomas scored 22 points, but for once he wasn’t alone. Craft had 15, Evan Ravenel scored 13 and Sam Thompson added eight, two of which came on one of the best dunks of the season.
The Buckeyes shot better than 56 percent from the field and showed what can happen when a squad that has one dynamic scorer plays team ball and takes advantage of a defense that is focusing its attention on one guy.
Unfortunately for head coach Thad Matta, team basketball like that hasn’t happened with the regularity he needs it to this year.
But if in fact Ohio State turned a corner during Tuesday’s game, it will be plenty dangerous going forward.
The Buckeyes have the Big 10’s leading scorer (15th in the country) in Thomas and a gritty floor general in Craft, who can single-handedly change the game on the defensive end and is a legitimate force if he contributes offensively.
Furthermore, the Buckeyes are much deeper than they have been in years past under Matta, even if that depth isn’t quite as talented as other teams.
Gone are the days when Matta could ride his five starters into the ground for 38 minutes a night.
With only one senior, Coach Matta has consistently used an eight-man rotation, not shying away from employing the youngsters, even after they make a mistake.
The youth on this team has gotten a chance to play early and often.
If players such as Shannon Scott (who has been excellent), LaQuinton Ross, Amir Williams and Thompson continue to develop, the Buckeyes could be very dangerous.
Also, don’t overlook the fact that Ohio State has something that most teams, including Michigan, do not—a coach who has been there and done that when it comes to March success.
Coach Matta has gone to two Final Fours, become a regular at the Sweet 16 and has won five Big Ten crowns in just eight years in Columbus.
While Ohio State is certainly more dangerous than it is getting credit for, one can only play the devil's advocate for so long.
Michigan may not only be the most dangerous team in the Big Ten—it could be the scariest team in the country.
For starters, the Wolverines have arguably the best backcourt in the nation. Burke is playing at an All-American level, and his running mate Tim Hardaway Jr. is bringing the consistency that fans have been looking for his entire career.
Furthermore, Michigan’s frontcourt is much more formidable than it has been in years past because of the contributions of Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary.
When Jon Horford is fully healthy, look out.
Thanks to a strong backcourt and developing frontcourt, the Wolverines are comfortable playing an up-and-down style or slowing it down in a half-court game. It’s difficult to make them feel uncomfortable or force them out of their element.
Michigan perfectly mixes veteran leadership with great potential in the form of their youngsters.
Freshmen McGary, Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas have filled their roles seamlessly and understand that this is Burke’s team first and foremost.
Ultimately, the argument boils down the Wolverines having more talent going forward than the Buckeyes. Throw in the peripheral reasons (versatility, depth, etc.), and it is clear the Maize and Blue are more dangerous this season than the Scarlet and Gray.
But don’t sleep on the Buckeyes just yet. They are a team poised to turn some heads this spring.
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