On Saturday evening, Ohio State went on the road to face Michigan in a game that was pivotal for Michigan’s postseason hopes. With the pressure on the Wolverines and the extra fuel of a rivalry game, the game figured to be quite a battle on both sides.
Early on, Michigan took control and led for the vast majority of the first half. However, as the two teams neared halftime, Ohio State made a run and used some quality defense to take a 36-35 lead into the break. In the second half, Michigan tried to keep pace, but Ohio State had just enough to grab a 70-66 win.
Let's see what we learned from the game.
What We Learned
1. Michigan’s NCAA Hopes Are Now On Life Support.
Heading into Saturday night, every Wolverine fan knew how important Michigan’s matchup with Ohio State would be for the team’s postseason hopes. With a 14-8 overall record and a 4-5 start to Big Ten play, time was running short for the Wolverines to make a serious run for the NCAA Tournament.
In particular, Saturday’s matchup was so important because it was the team’s most winnable game remaining on paper. KenPom gave Michigan 74.9 percent odds to win at tipoff and with the matchup at home on a Saturday night, this needed to be a win.
Of course, Michigan didn’t get the job done.
As a result of the loss, Michigan’s NCAA hopes are now on life support. Even if Wolverines won all of the team’s remaining games, Michigan would finish at 22-9 overall. That would certainly be good enough to quality for the Big Dance, but Michigan is only favored in three of those eight games.
Simply put, even getting to 18 or 19 wins looks like a tall task for Michigan. And that’s probably not enough to earn an NCAA bid. As such, Michigan’s NCAA hopes will now be on life support going forward. Any slip would end those dreams.
2. Derrick Walton Needs Help.
Even though Michigan has lost its last two games (MSU and OSU), there was one bright spot and that was Derrick Walton. He scored a combined 49 points and 19 rebounds in those games and had an offensive rating above 134 in both contests.
Unfortunately for Walton, he didn’t get much help elsewhere on Saturday.
Just two other Wolverines (Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and DJ WIlson) scored double-digits against the Buckeyes and key players like Zak Irvin and Moritz Wagner came up small against an underwhelming defensive team. It was the Derrick Walton show and most of Michigan’s other players stood around and watched.
Michigan has seen some impressive individual performances this season, but more often than not, they have come without much help elsewhere. If Michigan is going to make a run late this season, it’s going to need two or three players contributing significantly and not just one.
3. Ohio State Remains A Feisty Team.
Saturday night’s win won’t change much for Ohio State’s postseason hopes. After all, with a 14-10 record and difficult closing schedule, a realistic shot at an NCAA Tournament at-large bid was already out the window.
Nonetheless, Ohio State showed that it can go on the road and get a solid road win. This was also a key win to help Ohio State’s seeding for the Big Ten Tournament, where the team will hope to make a run this season.
Ohio State still has a lot of room left for improvement, but the team showed that it should remain a tough out for the rest of the Big Ten. Notably, with games against Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, and Wisconsin remaining, Ohio State could do some major damage in the next few weeks.
4. Trevor Thompson Had One of His Better Games On Saturday.
There might not be a lot of star power on Ohio State’s roster this season, but the team did get a big performance from Trevor Thompson on Saturday night. With Micah Potter and Jae’Sean Tate building up fouls, the team needed someone to step up and Thompson got the job done.
Thompson ended up finishing with 13 points and 11 rebounds and made some key plays when Michigan was trying to trim the gap. Thompson will probably never be good enough to dominate in league play, but if he can continue to improve his consistency and be a key role player, he could push Ohio State to new heights.
Michigan had a lot of pressure coming into its matchup against Ohio State on Saturday night. However, despite that pressure, Michigan came up short and the Buckeyes scored a key road win that should give the team and a fanbase a shot of energy. Michigan will not face Michigan State at home on Tuesday and Ohio State will face Rutgers at home on Wednesday.