If the University of Michigan’s men’s basketball team wants to make the NCAA Tournament, the Wolverines need to start winning immediately.
At 11-10 overall and 5-5 in the Big Ten, the Wolverines are average. They lack a signature win – a blowout victory over Maryland is arguably the team’s top victory – and they don’t have the quantity of wins needed to impress the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.
Fortunately for the Wolverines, they’re going to have chances to bolster their resume before the season ends, thanks to the Big Ten’s overall strength.
Road underdog vs. Northwestern
Juwan Howard’s team is a road underdog against Northwestern on Thursday. Barstool Sportsbook, Caesars Sportsbook, and DraftKings list the Wolverines as 3-point ‘dogs, while BetMGM, FanDuel, and PointsBet have Michigan as a 3.5-point underdog. The game tips off at 7 p.m. and will air on ESPN2.
Michigan’s moneyline is around +140 at multiple mobile sportsbooks, with PointsBet going up to +145. Michigan is just 1-4 in true road games this season.
Michigan basketball plays a road game tonight pic.twitter.com/V7AdADpNjx
— Josh Augdahl 〽️ (@UMFanAugdahl) February 2, 2023
Northwestern isn’t an elite team, but they’re a solid group. The Wildcats (15-6 overall, 6-4 in Big Ten) are strong defensively, although Michigan dropped 85 points on them in a win in Ann Arbor on Jan. 15.
The Wildcats rank 15th nationally in 2-point field-goal percentage defense. That’ll be a challenge for Michigan, which often leans on Hunter Dickinson in the post. The Wolverines are an average 3-point shooting team, but Dickinson is one of the tougher low-post matchups in college basketball, shooting 57.8% from inside the 3-point arc.
Dickinson finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds in the first meeting between the teams, but the Wolverines had one of their better 3-point shooting games, making 10 shots on 22 attempts. Replicating that performance will be tough, perhaps putting pressure on Dickinson to add more than 10 points down low.
The total for the game is 137.5 at BetMGM and FanDuel, while PointsBet lists the total at 139 points.
Ohio State game Sunday
Michigan faces fellow underachiever Ohio State (11-10, 3-7 Big Ten) on Sunday in Ann Arbor. Basketball analytics site KenPom.com projects that the Buckeyes will be a 1-point road favorite, despite the fact that Michigan is 8-3 at home this season, while Ohio State is just 1-6 in true road games.
Elsewhere in the state, Michigan State plays at Rutgers (15-7, 7-4 Big Ten) on Saturday. The Spartans are in much better NCAA Tournament shape than the Wolverines, as they have a 14-8 record with quality wins over Kentucky, Rutgers, and Iowa. KenPom predicts that Rutgers will be roughly a 5-point betting favorite in that matchup, however.
Photo: Nic Antaya/Getty