On Sunday, the Michigan Wolverines traveled to Columbus to face off against the Ohio State Buckeyes in one of the biggest regular season matchups in recent Big Ten history. Both teams were ranked in the top five and entered the game with serious Big Ten title aspirations. lt was anyone’s guess who would come out on top.
The game itself lived up to the hype, with both sides going back and forth for much of the afternoon. Juwan Howard compared it to a boxing match and it’s hard to disagree with that assessment. Hunter Dickinson led the way for the Wolverines with 22 points and nine rebounds and ended up being the star of the second half, helping Michigan scored a massive 92-87 win on the road against the Buckeyes.
Here is what we learned.
What We Learned:
1. Michigan could win it all this year.
We’ve heard plenty about Gonzaga and Baylor this season (and rightfully so), but it’s time Michigan started getting some national love as well. With Sunday’s win, Michigan is now 16-1 overall, 11-1 in Big Ten play, and in great position for a one seed in March. It seems like the Wolverines get a new challenge every week and meet it in stride. Dickinson remains a monster upfront and other key role players like Eli Brooks and Chaundee Brown continue to improve as well.
It’s hard to compare Michigan’s resume against teams like Gonzaga and Baylor with their divergent schedules. However, Michigan showed on Sunday it’s a worthy debate. The Wolverines have played a really difficult schedule (20th in strength of schedule, per KenPom) and are 16-1 against it. That’s an incredible accomplishment and should alone warrant consideration for Michigan at the top of the national polls.
The team’s resume could also improve significantly in the closing weeks of the regular season as well. Michigan gets two games against top five KenPom teams and road opportunities against Indiana and Michigan State. If the Wolverines sweep the games, it’s going to be hard to see the team landing anywhere but a one seed.
2. Ohio State is pretty legit, too.
There might not be any moral victories in college basketball, but Ohio State came about as close as you come to getting one on Sunday. The Buckeyes played a heck of a game and just fell a bit short at the final buzzer. The team’s offense remained impressive and shredded an outstanding Michigan defense for much of the afternoon. In the process, Ohio State looked every bit like a top five team and a Final Four contender.
Ohio State’s Big Ten title hopes are probably over with Sunday’s loss, but don’t overlook what this team could accomplish in the coming weeks. The Buckeyes are favored in each of the team’s remaining games and will be a really dangerous team in Indy.
3. Eli Brooks is an underrated piece for the Wolverines.
While Duane Washington had his way with Michigan’s backcourt for much of Sunday afternoon, there’s little debating Eli Brooks had the last laugh. The Wolverine guard had a fantastic performance, finishing with 17 points and playing really well on the defensive side of the ball in the closing minutes. Brooks continues to establish himself as a difference maker for Michigan on the defensive side of the floor and should be a key piece if the Wolverines make a push for the Big Ten title.
4. Ohio State needs to find some defensive answers upfront.
Let’s be clear about this. Ohio State played really well on Sunday and has been on an absolute tear the last six weeks. The Buckeyes made it all the way to fourth in the AP Poll and deserved to be there. The team is legit and has proven as much.
With all of that said, Ohio State’s size disadvantage upfront really looks like an issue as we approach March. The Buckeyes have more than enough tools to win plenty of games, but it’s hard to see the team winning six games in the NCAA Tournament without figuring out a way to neutral big men like Dickinson. We’ll see if Chris Holtmann and his staff can figure out something in the weeks ahead.
Sunday was an absolutely fantastic game. It was well played on both sides and throughly lived up to the hype with Michigan pulling out the win. Both teams will now get a few days off and prepare for another key week of Big Ten play. They will return to action on Thursday with Michigan hosting Iowa and Ohio State traveling to face Michigan State.