Michigan battles NCAA odds and No. 1 Ohio State

By: David Schwab | Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It will be a tall task this Thursday when the Michigan Wolverines try and extend their winning streak to three in the Big Ten against the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes. Tip-off from the Value City Arena in Columbus is set for 4 p.m. (PT) and the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.

Michigan snapped a six-game losing streak with a 61-57 victory over in-state rival Michigan State last Thursday night as an 11-point road underdog and then followed it up with an 87-73 win over Iowa as a 7 ½-point home favorite on Saturday. The wins moved the Wolverines to 13-9 straight-up and 10-7 against the spread for the year. They are 3-6 SU in conference play.

Sophomore guard Darius Morris is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 15.4 points a game while also leading in assists with 7.2. Freshman guard Tim Hardaway Jr. is the only other player scoring in double-figures with an average of 11.8 points a game, but junior guard-forward Zack Novak, the team’s leading rebounder with six per game, is averaging 9.9 points a game.

The Wolverines are averaging just 67 points and 33 rebounds a game which are both ranked near the bottom of the nation’s Division I schools. They are shooting 44.2 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from three-point range while converting on just over 70 percent of their attempts from the foul-line.

Ohio State firmly established itself as the best team in the country at this point of the season with an 87-64 romp over No.10 Purdue on Jan.25 as a 7 ½-point home favorite. The Buckeyes followed this up with a closer than expected 58-57 victory over Northwestern as a 10 ½-point road favorite this past Saturday. They are now a perfect 22-0 SU but just 10-9 ATS.

Ohio State is 9-0 SU in the Big Ten and has a two-game lead in the conference standings over the Boilermakers.

Much has been made this season about the stellar play of freshman forward Jared Sullinger, and all the accolades are justified. He leads the team in scoring with an average of 18 points a game and is shooting 57.7 percent from the floor. He is also the Buckeyes' top rebounder with an average of 9.9 boards a game.

Sullinger has a great supporting cast in junior guard William Buford, who is averaging 13.5 points and shooting 43.4 percent from three-point range and senior guard-forward David Lighty, who is averaging 12.4 points and 3.5 assists a game. Ohio State is averaging 78 points a game but is actually ranked 175th in the nation in rebounds with an average of 35 a game.

Michigan is 1-3 ATS in its last four road games and is 2-3 ATS in its last five games overall. The total has gone ‘over’ in five of its last six games.

Ohio State is 3-2 ATS in its last five games at home and is 3-1 ATS in its last four games overall. The total has gone ‘over’ in four of its last six games.

Head-to-head, the Buckeyes have won five of the last six games SU, but the Wolverines are 4-2 ATS. The total has gone ‘over’ in three of the last four meetings. Earlier this season Ohio State beat Michigan 68-64 as an 11-point road favorite and the total went ‘over’ the 126½-point line.

This time around the Buckeyes should open as a high double-digit favorite. The average margin of victory in the last four games between these two teams has been less than six points so stick with Michigan to once again make things interesting for the Buckeyes.

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