Michigan Basketball: 10 Things We Learned from the Win over Ohio State

Zach Dirlam@Zach_DirlamSenior Analyst IIFebruary 7, 2013

Michigan Basketball: 10 Things We Learned from the Win over Ohio State

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    It is only the first full week of February, but the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines and No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes looked like they were playing a game meant for March Madness on Tuesday night.

    With the Wolverines trailing by eight with 13:01 left in the second half, Tim Hardaway Jr. caught fire and helped send the game to overtime tied at 72.

    Michigan managed to knock down only one field goal and two free throws in the extra session, but it was all the Wolverines needed to top the Buckeyes 76-74 thanks to some stingy defense and two straight blocked shots to end the game.

    What did we learn from Michigan's thrilling victory Tuesday night? Click ahead to find out!

Michigan's Interior Defense Is Still a Work in Progress

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    Despite the fact that freshman power forward Mitch McGary and sophomore power forward Jon Horford have made significant improvements in their games at both ends of the floor, defense in the post remains a struggle for the Wolverines.

    The Buckeyes are far from an offensive juggernaut, especially in the post, yet the Wolverines could not find a way to stop Amir Williams or anyone else from driving the lane Tuesday night.

    Williams and the Buckeyes scored 30 points in the paint, in addition to 16 second-chance points off nine offensive rebounds.

    Michigan needs Jordan Morgan's injured ankle to heal as soon as possible. Morgan may be undersized compared with the rest of the Wolverines' big men, but the redshirt junior is rarely out of position defensively and makes opposing forwards work for points in the post.

    As of now, post defense is still Michigan's biggest weakness, and it's waiting to be exposed by the Michigan State Spartans on Feb. 12.

Mitch McGary Is Michigan's Best Big Man

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    Although Horford, a redshirt sophomore, made his third straight start in place of the injured Jordan Morgan, true freshman big man McGary proved on Tuesday night he is clearly the best of the trio.

    McGary recorded career highs in points (14), steals (four) and minutes played (29) in the win over the Ohio State Buckeyes. The 6'10", 250-pounder also failed to knock down a couple of good looks in the lane, so McGary's strong effort would have been even more impressive had those shots fallen.

    If it were not for the energy McGary provides Michigan off the bench, he would likely have earned his first career start against Ohio State. 

    Even if head coach John Beilein decides McGary is better suited to provide a spark for the Wolverines after the opening minutes of play, there is no question the Chesterton, Ind., native is the team's top big man.

The Wolverines Still Have Problems Operating out of the Half Court

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    The one thing the Buckeyes have done better than any other team that has gone up against the Wolverines this season is getting back on defense.

    It sounds simple because it is. The Buckeyes took away Michigan's transition offense, which is when sophomore point guard Trey Burke plays his best basketball, and forced the Wolverines to operate out of the half court for nearly the entire game.

    The few times Burke and Co. were able to run the floor, it resulted in a layup, dunk or wide-open three-pointer.

    Ohio State is one of the best defensive teams in the nation, and when a perimeter-oriented team like Michigan is forced to take contested jump shots, the results are usually a mixed bag.

    Had it not been for the Wolverines knocking down 14-of-24 three-pointers, they would have been completely dismantled by the Buckeyes at the Crisler Center.

    Michigan has not had to live and die by the three-ball this season, but if teams are able to take away the Wolverines' transition attack, they become completely reliant on perimeter jump-shooting.

    Thankfully, Michigan does not have a whole lot of games on its schedule against teams that play defense as well as Ohio State.

Jordan Morgan Is Close to Returning but Needs More Time to Recover

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    One of the most encouraging signs for the Wolverines on Tuesday night was that Jordan Morgan took the floor for a second straight game.

    Since suffering an ankle injury Jan. 27, Morgan has missed Michigan's rout of the Northwestern Wildcats, played two minutes against the Indiana Hoosiers and seen four minutes of action in the Wolverines' dramatic victory over the Buckeyes.

    Morgan actually went to the table to check in for a second time but was called back to the bench before he had a chance to re-enter.

    The next step in Morgan's recovery is to play for about eight minutes Saturday against the Wisconsin Badgers. If he is able to do that without much pain, the Wolverines may be able to put him in the starting lineup next Tuesday against the Spartans.

Nik Stauskas Settled a Score Against Ohio State

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    It only took a little more than three minutes to figure out how much freshman shooting guard Nik Stauskas wanted to deal out a dose of revenge to the Ohio State Buckeyes.

    The sharp-shooting Canadian did not record a single point in the Wolverines' loss to the Buckeyes this season, which is probably why Stauskas turned around and eyeballed the entire Ohio State bench after crossing up Sam Thompson and draining a three-pointer in the corner.

    Stauskas played a vital role in Michigan's victory on Tuesday and finished the game with 11 points on four-of-eight shooting. The 6'6", 190-pounder also pulled down six rebounds, two of which were at the offensive end.

    The only blemish on Stauskas' freshman campaign is his scoreless effort in Columbus, but he made sure to settle his score with Ohio State. 

Trey Burke Trying to Do Too Much Is Michigan's Kryptonite

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    There is no doubt Burke is the best player the Michigan Wolverines have, but when he tries to do too much on his own, it is bad news for this team.

    Much like in the first matchup with the Buckeyes this season, Burke tried to force several plays rather than finding open looks for himself or his teammates by running the offense. 

    This has not been a problem in many of Michigan's games thus far, and the reason it happens against the Buckeyes is completely understandable. Burke's desire to outplay Aaron Craft and single-handedly take down Ohio State leads to him becoming overzealous.

    Basically, it looks like Burke wants to take Craft to the bucket every single time he challenges him. On Tuesday night, sometimes it worked, but other times Burke drove right into traffic and got out of control in the lane.

    This should not be a problem for Michigan going forward, though, since it would have to face the Buckeyes again only if the two met in the postseason.

Tim Hardaway Jr.'s NBA Draft Stock Has Never Been Higher

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    With Michigan trailing Ohio State by five points and only 12:04 remaining in the second half, Hardaway showed his veteran leadership and took control of the game.

    Over the next 3:19, Hardaway knocked down four consecutive three-pointers, which gave the Wolverines a 55-54 lead. Hardaway added a fifth straight trey a little more than three minutes later to bring Michigan back to within two points after it allowed Ohio State to jump out in front again.

    Hardaway made seven-of-14 field-goal attempts, including six-of-nine from beyond the arc.

    After a performance like that, especially in a prime-time rivalry game on ESPN, Hardaway's NBA draft stock has to be soaring in the minds of executives at the professional level.

    The physical tools have always been there for Hardaway, but now he has the jump shot to go with his large frame and leaping ability.

    The Miami, Fla., native is shooting 43 percent from three-point range this season, a far cry from the 28 percent he shot from distance as a sophomore.

    If Hardaway continues to turn in strong shooting performances as he did against the Buckeyes, it is unlikely the 6'6", 205-pounder will still be in Ann Arbor next season.

Ohio State Would Be an Awful Draw for Michigan in the Postseason

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    If the Wolverines have to face the Buckeyes in the postseason, the Maize and Blue faithful should be very worried.

    The Buckeyes have played Michigan better than anyone else this season, and the matchup does not bode well for the Wolverines at all.

    Michigan is at its best when it is able to get out in transition and Burke is able to kick it out to either Stauskas or Hardaway looking to spot up on the wings. Ohio State does not let the Wolverines run at all.

    Beilein's team has struggled operating out of the half court for large portions of the season. The Buckeyes play better half-court defense than just about anyone else in the country thanks to Craft, Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson.

    So when the brackets are unveiled for the Big Ten Conference and NCAA tournaments, Michigan fans should be hoping Ohio State lands on the opposite side. 

The Maize Uniforms Need to Make Another Appearance This Season

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    The Michigan Wolverines were given some new uniforms to don for their rematch with the Ohio State Buckeyes, and the all-maize look is one the fans should get to see a second time this season.

    The singular color scheme worked better for Michigan than some of the NBA's Christmas Day uniforms because the numbers were outlined with a little bit of blue to make them easier to see.

    The only knock on the new alternate jerseys is that the names are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to read since they are a different shade of maize.

    The Wolverines should break out those uniforms again this year, but Adidas should go back and outline the names with the same color scheme used for the numbers.

Basketball Is No Longer a Second-Tier Sport for Michigan

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    College basketball in Ann Arbor became completely irrelevant in the minds of the Maize and Blue faithful after the era of the Fab Five passed and the NCAA levied harsh sanctions against the program, but Beilein's successful run has brought the sport back to the forefront of the fan base.

    Football will always be king for the University of Michigan. There is no way around that. It is too deeply imprinted in the history of the school.

    Basketball season is something Wolverine fans can look forward to once again, though, rather than dread.

    The fans packed the Crisler Center to capacity Tuesday night. Several members of the football team attended, and even Michigan football head coach Brady Hoke was there to watch the Wolverines face the Buckeyes.

    It has been quite awhile since fans have been this passionate about the Wolverines doing work on the hardwood, and with the crop of recruits coming in next season, the sport will not be irrelevant again anytime soon.