There's plenty on the line in Michigan's 1:30 game at Ohio State today, including a chance to take over the No. 1 spot in the rankings after Duke's Saturday loss at N.C. State. The 16-0 Wolverines can set a record with their 17th win against no losses to start the season, but head coach John Beilein is more concerned about picking up a critical Big Ten road win.
"National TV, a great team that's very difficult to beat on their home court - we're going to have to play very well," Beilein said. "[Winning on the road] is indicative of who the really, really good teams are. You could probably count very quickly all the teams with road games against top 20 teams so far this year. I would think most did not fare well. It's not always records, but who you play, when you play them.
"If we have an above .500 record, which we did last year, that's a tremendous road year."
U-M has played two true road games, at Bradley and at Northwestern. The latter was a 30-point blowout in an arena that was half filled with Michigan fans.
The challenge gets ramped up Sunday.
"I think every time we've gone to Columbus we have hung around that first half, they had a good run to start the second half many of those times," Beilein said. "Runs will happen. I don't think there is anything you can do about them ahead of time. It's in the middle of run you have to get a stop."
The Buckeyes are 12-3, 2-1 in the Big Ten. U-M is undefeated, but the Wolverines haven't proven anything yet, Beilein said.
"I don't think we feel any of it," he said. "None of us. Everybody's got to understand, we have played 17 games and haven't played a top 20 on the road yet. It's not about being undefeated; it's who did you play, when and where did you play them? The schedule changes now. If we had played N.C. State or Pitt at their place, we might not be undefeated.
"We haven't done anything. We are 3-0 in league play 18 games in. I don't care what our record is - we have a lot to prove every day."
Redshirt sophomore big man Jon Horford has returned from a knee injury and could play against the Buckeyes. He was healthy enough to go against Nebraska, if needed, Beilein said.
Ohio State's DeShaun Thomas is OSU's leading scorer, averaging over 20 points per game. There are times he's going to get his no matter how well he's defended, Beilein said.
"When he can get it going, there's no college or NBA playbook that can stop what he's doing right now," Beileins said. "He's tall, long and can hit those runaway shots - you can't stop that play."