Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 3/15/12

The Michigan Wolverines (24-9, 13-5) are set to mark their territory against the Ohio Bobcats (27-7, 11-5) in a round of 64 matchup in the NCAA tournament. Tipoff is set for 7:20 eastern on Friday night.

Michigan and Ohio have several connections that run throughout the rosters and coaching staffs. Former co-workers and AAU teammates will renew acquaintances tomorrow night with everything on the line.

Zack Novak

The Wolverines tied Ohio State and Michigan State for 1st place in the Big 10’s regular season to earn a 4 seed in the big dance. Ohio won the MAC tournament and was rewarded with a 13 seed. As recently as 2010, the Bobcats upset #3 seed Georgetown in the first round so they do have some Cinderella history on their side.

John Beilein brings a team to Nashville that is hungry to prove that their stagnant performance in the Big 10 Tournament was an aberration. Seniors Zack Novak and Stu Douglass officially have their eligibility backs against the wall. One more loss and it’s over. Or 6 more wins.

Michigan is noted as a tough team to prepare for due to the intricacies of Beilein’s offensive scheme and occasional 1-3-1 zone defense. On short rest, they will be a handful for anyone, but Ohio has had some time to prepare.

D.J. Cooper and Walter Offutt lead the scoring charge for Ohio at 14.6 and 11.7 points per game respectively. Both players can fill it up from long range. Nick Kellogg can also add some firepower with his 3-point shooting (42%).

Ohio will defend hard as a team and collectively crash the boards and try to make things uncomfortable for Michigan all night long.

It’s no secret that when the Wolverines are shooting well they’re a tough team to beat. The problem is that type of success has often been too streaky to predict. Michigan shoots 35% from 3-pt. range as a team and will feature that style of attack as long as they’re alive.

Novak is the top marksman at 42% while Trey Burke (14.8 ppg) shoots 36%. The ups and downs of sophomores Tim Hardaway, Jr. (14.6 ppg) and Evan Smotrycz have often determined the effectiveness of this team. Both players, especially Hardaway, have shown signs of snapping out of their funks, and if they do, look out. If they don’t, Michigan could be on the outside looking in just like last year.

Due to their subpar Big 10 Tourney run, a lot of experts have written off these Wolverines, turning them into a bit of a sneaky sleeper team. They will indeed make for one of the more intriguing teams to watch during March Madness (Mayhem?) with their volatility showing up on any given night.

Jordan Morgan has the ability to be a difference-maker for Michigan if he can crash the glass and stay out of foul trouble. He leads the team at 5.5 rebounds/game and scores the ball at a 62% clip.

The likely outcome here is a Michigan win, but Ohio has the scrappiness to call that into question. The winner of this game will play the Temple/South Florida winner on Sunday afternoon.

Prediction:

On the season, Rob is 24-9 predicting the outcome of Michigan games. I am 23-10.

Rob: Michigan 74-66

Joe: Michigan 67-58

You can follow Rob and I on Twitter @isportsJoe and @isportsRob

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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