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Ohio State-Michigan is a better basketball rivalry than it is in football

Who knew that when these two teams met on a national stage it would be in basketball, not in football?

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Ohio State Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Tamanini Matt Tamanini is the co-managing editor of Land-Grant Holy Land having joined the site in 2016.

On Thursday, the Columbus Dispatch’s Adam Jardy exclusively reported that the Ohio State men’s basketball team has started a new tradition, similar to that of the football team’s Gold Pants Club established in 1934. The new tradition will award Buckeye basketball players with an inscribed Gold Jersey charm for successfully beating The Team Up North on the hardwood.

As to not break the Dispatch’s paywall, I will refer you to Jardy’s article (and subscription deal) for all of the additional details. Needless to say, with a top-four matchup on the calendar for Sunday between the Buckeyes and the Weasels, there is reason to get excited about the future of the rivalry... at least on the basketball court.

Ohio State and TTUN played their first men’s basketball game on Feb. 27, 1909 — OSU won 29-22; the early epitome of Big Ten basketball. The two teams have faced off a total of 184 times in their collective history, with the Buckeyes holding an official 99-72 record; but when you add back in the games that the NCAA has vacated, the record for the good guys is 105-79.

Due to the long shadow cast by the Fab Five and their subsequent NBA careers, I get the feeling that for the general public, the Michigan Meerkats are considered more of a men’s basketball factory than the Buckeyes are. However, when looking at the programs’ statistical histories, that’s not really the case.

OSU has a better all-time record, more tournament appearances, more Final Four appearances, more B1G titles, more All-Americans, and more B1G Players of the Year. The only significant area in which TTUN has an edge on the Buckeyes is in their overall tournament record.

OSU & TTUN All-Time Stats

Stat Ohio State Michigan
Stat Ohio State Michigan
National titles 1 1
Final Four appearances 11 8
NCAA Tournament appearances 33 29
NCAA Tournament record 57–32 61–28
Big Ten Tournament titles 5 3
Big Ten regular season titles 22 14
Consensus First Team All-Americans 15 10
Naismith Players of the Year 1 1
Big Ten Players of the Year 7 5
All-time program record 1,768–1,118 1,587–1,038
All-time winning percentage 0.613 0.605

And while none of the numbers are overwhelmingly in Ohio State’s favor, there is a decided advantage across the board. Interestingly enough, what is obviously true over the entire 112-year history of the rivalry is also fairly true over its past 10 years as well. The Buckeyes hold an advantage in terms of head-to-head record since the 2010-11 season, but it has been a back-and-forth decade for the storied rivals.

In the previous 10 seasons, OSU holds an 11-7 record over the Muskrats from the Mitten State, including a 2-1 mark in the B1G Tournament — all of those games occurring in the tourney’s semifinals.

OSU vs. TTUN MBB Rivalry (2011-2021)

Date OSU Score TTUN Score Notes
Date OSU Score TTUN Score Notes
Jan. 12, 2011 68√ 64
Feb. 3, 2011 62√ 53
Mar. 12, 2011 68√ 61 B1G Semifinals
Jan. 29, 2012 64√ 49
Feb. 18, 2012 51 56
Mar. 10, 2012 77√ 55 B1G Semifinals
Feb. 5, 2013 74 76 OT
Feb. 11, 2014 60 70
Mar. 15, 2014 69 72 B1G Semifinals
Jan. 13, 2015 71√ 52
Feb. 22, 2015 57 64
Feb. 16, 2016 76√ 66
Feb. 4, 2017 70√ 66
Dec. 4, 2017 71√ 62 Chris Holtmann's first season.
Feb. 18, 2018 62 74 Chris Holtmann's first game at Crisler Arena.
Jan. 29, 2019 49 65
Feb. 4, 2020 61√ 58 Juwan Howard's first season.
Mar. 1, 2020 77√ 63 Juwan Howard's first game at Schott.
Feb. 21, 2021 ???? ???? No. 4 OSU vs. No. 3 TTUN

Thanks to a season-sweep in the abbreviated 2019-20 campaign, the Bucks are coming into Sunday’s matchup on a two-game winning streak over the Ferrets. That will obviously be put to the test against Juwan Howard’s team who, before having to take a month off for COVID concerns, was one of the hottest teams in the country.

The Corn and Blue returned to the court last Sunday in a 67-59 win over Wisconsin, and will take on Rutgers tonight; at about the same time, the Buckeyes will travel to Happy Valley to take on the Nits. Both teams should be able to handle tonight’s challenges to set up an exciting game on Sunday.

Ohio State has only lost one game since Jan. 3, winning nine of their last 10 to shoot up the ranks of the national basketball consciousness. Chris Holtmann’s crew has worked through a lot of the early-season growing pains inherent in a team with a ton of new members. However, from a statistical standpoint, the Fighting Hugh Jackmans still have an edge over the Buckeyes in most categories.

OSU & TTUN 2020-21 Comparison

Stat Ohio State Michigan
Stat Ohio State Michigan
Offensive points per game 77.5 78.9
Defensive points per game 68 64.9
Offensive shooting percentage 0.456 0.502
Defensive shooting percentage 0.414 0.375
Offensive three-point shooting 0.355 0.379
Rebounding margin 4.4 8.2
Turnover margin 0.48 -1.67
Assist/TO ratio 1.24:1 1.36:1
KenPom AdjEM +27.17 (6th) +29.54 (3rd)
KenPom AdjO 122.8 (4th) 118.7 (7th)
KenPom AdjD 95.6 (57th) 89.1 (8th)

Though TTUN has these statistical advantages, the fact that they’ve played six fewer games in what is undoubtedly the most difficult conference in college basketball makes me feel like this weekend’s contest should be even closer than the already tight numbers would indicate.

Things are so close, in fact, a few days ago, a Reddit user simulated the entire NCAA tournament based on ESPN’s project bracket, and ended up with an Ohio State and ❌ichigan National Championship game.

I am choosing to ignore the result of this unnamed individual’s projected title game, but for years, fans across the country have been longing for these two schools to finally meet in a game that matters on the national stage, who knew that it would end up happening in basketball before it did in football?