It's been a long time since Michigan and Ohio State met in such a huge game on the hardwood. Generally, these rivals have their most crucial confrontations on the football field.
Make no mistake, this is one of the biggest games on the college basketball schedule this season. The No. 2-ranked Wolverines are a perfect 16-0 heading into Sunday's major clash with the No. 15-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.
It represents the first significant test on the road for the Wolverines. They have played only two true road games this season and those games were blowout wins over Bradley and Northwestern.
Obviously, the Buckeyes are much better than the Braves and the Wildcats.
The Buckeyes will be getting another opportunity to test their mettle. They have failed to come through in each of their three attempts to knock off a ranked opponent this season.
They fell to the then No. 2 Duke Blue Devils, No. 9 Kansas Jayhawks and lost by 19 to No. 15 Illinois on Jan. 5.
This is good stuff.
Here are the particulars for the game and some deeper analysis into the teams.
When: Sunday, January 13 1:30 p.m. ET
Where: Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio
Live Stream: CBSSports.com
Both teams appear to be healthy heading into the matchup, which almost ensures we'll see them perform at their best.
The Key Matchups
Trey Burke vs. Aaron Craft
Burke has been all-world so far this season.
As impressive as his 18.2 points and 7.3 assists per game are, his 1.8 turnovers per contest show just how solid he's been. He's the engine that makes the Wolverines go on offense, and he keys much of the on-ball pressure on the perimeter.
Craft is an intriguing matchup for Burke because defense is the former's calling card. He prides himself on locking down opposing point guards, and he'll be facing perhaps the nation's best on Sunday.
If he can frustrate Burke, it will go a long way towards disrupting the penetrate-and-kick offense the Wolverines run.
The two teams split their meetings last season.
Burke's play seemed to dictate the results in those games. In the loss, Burke had 13 points and five assists, but he also turned the ball over five times. Some credit for that belongs to Craft.
In the win, Burke was much better. He had 17 points, five assists and only two turnovers. That is much closer to the level of play he's shown this season.
Deshaun Thomas vs. Zone
Michigan will probably stay in zone most of the game to converge on Thomas. He's been almost all of the Buckeyes' offense this season.
He's averaging 20.3 points per game this season.
The Wolverines will have to swarm to him when he gets the ball inside of 15 feet. They can't let Thomas get easy buckets, but the challenge in guarding him is limiting his looks from deep as well.
He's making just over 40 percent of his attempts from three-point range.
Thomas is too good of an offensive player to shut down completely.
He hasn't scored less than 16 points in a game this season, which coincidentally came against the Buckeyes' two toughest opponents (Duke and Kansas), but the Wolverines must make sure the supporting cast doesn't flourish.
The Battle of the Bigs
Neither team has dominant post players, but if there is an area of Michigan's game to attack, it would have to be on the inside.
The Buckeyes need a strong game from 6'11" sophomore Amir Williams. He has the size to be a factor, especially against the shorter Jordan Morgan.
Expect to see Michigan coach John Beilein use freshman Mitch McGary a little more than the 15 minutes per game he's been playing all season. This game will be physical, and that starts on the inside.
Michigan is too talented man-for-man.
Kraft is an excellent defender, but Burke's quickness and shooting is a load to handle. His penetration and the long range attack from Tim Hardaway, Jr., Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III creates a ton of scoring options.
Ohio State has had trouble finding scoring outside of Thomas. Lenzelle Smith is the only other Buckeye averaging in double figures. A team that depends so heavily on one man to score won't beat Michigan.
The Buckeyes' crowd will be loud, but the Wolverines are just better.
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