Ohio State's roster isn't filled with NBA talent as it has been in the past, but the Buckeyes have shown signs of life recently after going through a rough stretch. They always play Michigan well and will be a tough out Tuesday night, head coach John Beilein noted.
It doesn't help that the schedule put the Wolverines on the road for back to back road games with only two days in between. Here are some of Monday's news and views.
News: Michigan's second half Big Ten schedule was considered the toughest remaining slate in the country, and it's not getting any easier.
Beilein: "This will be the third road game in 10 days. I'm not a big fan of it and I'm addressing it … in probably the best ways possible, through the Big Ten. I'm continuing to have discussions with the Big Ten about it."
Views: There are always tough stretches in conference play for every team, but this one is particularly brutal. If the Wolverines fall at Ohio State Tuesday, certainly not out of the question, they'll likely need to sweep Wisconsin and Michigan State at home in the next two games to remain atop the Big Ten standings.
The good news: when Beilein talks, the Big Ten usually listens. He commands respect, and some credit him (not only him) for helping eliminate some of the clutch and grab that had permeated the game in recent years and turned the conference into an 18-game cage match.
News: The Wolverines finish with what many consider four games they should win: at Purdue and Illinois, and home against Minnesota and Indiana.
Beilein: "We know in this league, teams one through 12 can beat you on any day. We have to try to win as many as we can and just see what happens because it's a son-of-a-gun to win any game.
"One of the good things in basketball is that sometimes you play two or three games in a week, and one of the bad things in basketball is that sometimes you play two or three games in a week. You can get over a loss, or you get your momentum going. But for repair or rest, there isn't a lot of time."
Views: It's hard to find different ways to prepare, then, when a team decides its going to take Nik Stauskas out of a game, for example. Practices are reserved for preparing for the opponent, and teams have changed things up dramatically on the Wolverines in recent weeks.
The frustration has been evident, especially with Stauskas. Still, Beilein teams generally improve in the second half of the season. Expect them to find ways to compensate in the weeks to come.
News Aaron Craft returns to face Michigan for a record 10th straight year …
Beilein: "Coach LaVall Jordan does a pretty good imitation of him (in practice) …"
Views: Okay, we exaggerate. It just seems like 10 years. Nobody did a better job guarding Trey Burke than Craft, and he's earned our respect with the way he plays defense, especially. Points will probably be hard to come by Tuesday whether Craft is on the point guards or matches up with Stauskas, following the blueprint of other Big Ten teams that have put smaller, quicker guards on U-M's best scorer.
This is not the typical OSU team. It struggles to score, has a big man who should be better than he is and isn't a great shooting team. That said, Craft is a winner and a great leader, and the Buckeyes are playing good basketball. They always get up for the Wolverines, Craft said Monday.
"The fans get a little more excited about it," Craft said. ''It's always great to feed off your own fans' energy. There's people out there camping outside right now in this weather. That makes you want to play a little harder.
"You tend to get everyone's best game, but there's always something special about playing against Michigan. Whatever it is, bragging rights, whatever - it's always great to play against them. The energy in the gym is always a little higher."
Students are literally camped out in tents waiting for seats as you read this. Last year, the Buckeyes ran the Wolverines out of the gym early before U-M responded with a run to make a game of it, nearly pulling it out before a Burke triple barely rimmed out.
It will take a great effort to beat OSU on its court, much better than the one the Wolverines put forth at Iowa Saturday in a blowout loss.