It was a white-hot start to the week that has cooled down some as we came up short last night when we backed Iowa at Michigan State. The Hawkeyes were getting double-digit points, and I liked their chances to keep this game competitive and cover the number. The Spartans jumped out of the gate fast and won this one going away, and the cover was never really in question. Michigan State shot over 51% from the field and got to the line for thirty-two free throws. You are never going to beat these Spartans on their home floor if you send them to the line thirty-two times.
This should trigger a bit of a market correction on Iowa as they clearly aren’t a top twenty team right now, and with the 0-2 week will likely fall out of the top twenty-five. But don’t sleep on these Hawkeyes, they have had a tough go if it this week, but this team is going to win some games people might not expect this season. For the Spartans, this was a great opportunity to show the country that they are still the team to beat in the Big 10 and they took full advantage of it. For today’s game, I will look at another team atop the Big 10 standings when Michigan travels to Northwestern.
The Northwestern Wildcats host the Michigan Wolverines Tuesday in a Big 10 league game. Big Blue has taken the nation by storm, and they broke into the top five in the newest AP poll. The Wolverines are undefeated on the year at 8-0 and are coming off back to back wins over ranked opponents. Michigan has resume-building wins against the likes of Villanova, North Carolina, Purdue, and Providence already this season.
Northwestern was expected to have another off year this season, but the Wildcats have played fairly well so far as they are 6-2 on the season. Northwestern has wins against Georgia Tech and Utah, and their two losses came at the hands of Fresno State and Indiana. The Wolverines are -5.5-point road favorites. The game total over-under is set at 127 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 PM PST from Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Who can stop this Michigan Wolverines team right now? The expectations were fairly light on this team coming into the season as they lost a lot of talent from last year’s team that went to the Final Four. But they have quickly put the country on notice as they have torn through their early season schedule and are blowing good teams out. They beat Villanova by twenty-seven, in Villanova. They just beat Purdue and North Carolina, by an average of close to twenty points.
Kenpom has this as the number one defense in the country, and it’s not even really close. The only team in the top ten that comes anywhere near the level of defense that Michigan is playing right now is Virginia, and we all know just how great that defensive unit can be. The Wolverines seem to jump out really fast in all of their games this year, and the first four minutes are going to be very key for Northwestern.
This Northwestern team isn’t going to make the NCAA tournament this season. That’s no big knock on the Wildcats, they might have enough talent to survive in some leagues and get a tournament nod. But not this year, and not in this league. The Big 10 is as good as its been in years and there are going to be no easy wins in league play. I think when all is said and done, Northwestern will have a rough league record and won’t be seriously considered as a bubble team on Selection Sunday.
I have had a pretty simple strategy so far this season. Bet on Michigan and win money. This team seems to get better each time out, and this defense is suffocating. They have quickly moved from a possible Sweet 16 candidate to a legit national champion contender. I hate to get too wrapped up in the hype, and make no mistake, we are buying in at the peak of this Michigan team’s hype right now.
But until this team comes back to earth, I have to keep backing them. Laying points on the road in conference play is the biggest gamble I will take. But this line is a reasonable one right now, and I don’t see Northwestern as having some unbeatable home court advantage. On a neutral floor, I could see Michigan winning this one by twenty points or more. So, I am not going to let the fact that this game is at Northwestern score me off of backing the significantly better team. Give me the Michigan Wolverines laying -5.5-points on the road tonight at Northwestern!