College Basketball: Why Ohio State at Michigan Is the Game to Watch This Week
This week's basketball game to watch comes to us from Ann Arbor, Michigan, as two rivals face off in a Big Ten showdown: Ohio State (17-4, 7-2) at Michigan (20-2, 7-2) on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET (televised on ESPN).
The first time the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines played each other this season, it was the Buckeyes who came out on top in Columbus with a 56-53 victory.
The Buckeyes came out of the gate firing on all cylinders and weathered the Michigan second-half storm to hold on to the victory.
Thad Matta's team is in the midst of a four-game winning streak that includes wins over some of the worst teams in the conference.
On Tuesday, the Buckeyes will be thrust back into the national spotlight as they look to prove once again they can play in the big games.
The Buckeyes are 1-4 this season against ranked opponents, with the only win coming over their bitter rival on January 13 at home.
If the Buckeyes are to come out of Ann Arbor with a surprise win, they will need another superb performance from their leading scorer, junior Deshaun Thomas.
Thomas has reached double figures in points in all of Ohio State's games this season, including a 20-point performance in the win over Michigan.
While Thomas' offense will be key to a Buckeyes victory, so will the defense of Aaron Craft. Craft played excellent defense against Michigan's Trey Burke in the first meeting between the two teams, and he will have to do the same thing on Tuesday night.
Michigan lost its No. 1 ranking on Saturday night when it fell to Indiana in Bloomington.
Now, the Wolverines have to recover quickly from their second loss of the season and prepare for a hungry Buckeyes team that is out to defeat them again.
Against Indiana, Burke put in a very strong game with 25 points, but some of his teammates failed to step up when they were called on.
Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas both had disappointing showings at Assembly Hall on Saturday night, and their contributions were greatly missed.
The two players combined for just 12 points in the loss to Indiana, most of which came when the game was all but over.
Stauskas is one of the best three-point shooters in the nation, and his accuracy from beyond the arc will be crucial to the success of the Wolverines.
Who Wins on Tuesday Night?
Robinson has played poorly against all three of Michigan's ranked opponents this season, and that will have to change for the Wolverines to come out of Tuesday's game at the Crisler Center with a win.
Both teams have plenty of depth, and just like any big game, Tuesday's Big Ten showdown could come down to the role players.
For Ohio State, the key role player could be senior forward Evan Ravenel.
Ravenel gives the Buckeyes a strong presence in the paint, and he is due for a big game this season.
Ravenel has shown this season that he is capable of putting together a strong performance in the paint, with five double-digit point performances and two games in which he recorded more than nine rebounds.
Michigan's key role player on Tuesday night should be Mitch McGary, who stepped up in the absence of a good performance from Robinson and played strong against Indiana.
McGary tied his season-high in points with 10 against Indiana in a performance that should give the freshman forward plenty of confidence.
While all of the attention will be on the guard play, the battle between Ravenel and McGary in the paint could decide the outcome of the game.
Michigan will be looking to avenge its loss from earlier this season and should not fall to the Buckeyes for the second time this season, Expect Tuesday's game in Ann Arbor to be a hard-fought affair with the Wolverines coming out on top.
For more college basketball insight, follow me on Twitter, @JTansey90.
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