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Orion Sang | Detroit Free Press | January 29, 2019

Ohio State-Michigan basketball: Preview, prediction and 3 things to watch

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Michigan has had some spirited games against Ohio State during John Beilein's time in Ann Arbor.

Last season, the Wolverines traveled to Columbus, opened up a 20-point lead before halftime — and lost by nine.

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Michigan (19-1 overall, 8-1 Big Ten) has compiled a 43-6 record since that collapse. It turned around the team's record last season — and led to a change in team identity.

"It certainly helped us get from a very middling type of record to what we've been able to do since that game," Beilein said on a teleconference Monday afternoon. "I think that we have a tremendous record since that game.

"I know it had an effect on that season ... we created a bigger edge on our team after that one ... an emphasis on defense, an emphasis on playing through adversity and finding a way to make things happen even when things aren't going your way."

The two teams will meet just once this season, at Crisler Center on Tuesday night, in a pivotal game for both. Ohio State is trying to get back on track after a recent five-game losing streak. Michigan will join Michigan State at the top of the conference standings with a win.

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Here are three things to watch for:

Stopping Kaleb Wesson

Ohio State's offense goes through Kaleb Wesson, a 6-9, 270-pound center who leads the team with 14.9 points per game.

Wesson is a load down low with an array of post moves. He's a conventional back-to-the basket center, although he has some range — he's hit 13-of-39 3s this season.

Everything starts with Wesson. He uses 31.2 percent of his team's possessions when he's on the floor, and has scored double digits in 14 of 19 games.

Another strength of Wesson: drawing fouls. He draws 8.1 fouls per 40 minutes, placing him third in the nation.

Which center will get the call off the bench?

Given Wesson's ability to draw fouls and the number of possessions he uses, there's a chance Jon Teske will pick up an early foul or be in foul trouble throughout the game, despite a relatively low foul rate (3.1 committed per 40 minutes).

In the case Teske has to leave the game, Michigan will need quality minutes from the backup center.

This spot has been unsettled, and Beilein has said twice in the past four days that match-ups will determine who gets the call as Teske's backup.

Given how big Wesson is, the safe bet is Austin Davis as the first center off the bench.

3-point defense

As a team, Ohio State is shooting 35.9 percent on 3s this season. Chris Holtmann has done a good job of surrounding Wesson with capable shooters.

CJ Jackson, Duane Washington, Andre Wesson and Luther Muhammad have all hit 20 or more 3s; Muhammad and Jackson are the most efficient, averaging 42.9 percent and 38.9 percent, respectively.

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Michigan's been one of the best teams in the nation when it comes to preventing 3s -- opposing teams have made just 96 all season (a mark that's second-lowest in the nation) and are shooting just 29.7 percent from outside. That will have to continue against the Buckeyes.

Prediction

Wesson will get buckets down low. But Michigan's the better team, and playing at home. The pick: Michigan 70, Ohio State 62.

This article is written by Orion Sang from Detroit Free Press and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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