University of Michigan Wolverines (8-3) at University of Texas Longhorns (6-2)
The University of Michigan Wolverines will travel to Austin, Texas to face the Longhorns of Texas tonight in a fantastic non-conference matchup. Both teams are badly in need of a resume-building win out of conference.
Michigan comes into this one fresh off beating another solid team in UCLA, earlier in the week. The Longhorn’s have had a full week off since beating VCU in their last outing. A win that saw head coach Shaka Smart face his former team for the first time since he left the program he led to a Final Four.
Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 PM PST from the Frank Erwin Center in Austin. The current betting line is Texas -5 points, the game total over-under is set at 130 points.
The Shaka Smart era in Texas has gotten off to a bit of a slow start. The Longhorn faithful expected Smart to come in and immediately turn around the struggling program. He didn’t.
With a 31-35 record over his first two seasons in Austin, some of the fans started grumbling that they might have hired the wrong guy. Let me set this straight right now, Smart is one heck of a basketball coach, and now that he has hit his third season in the burnt orange, and is starting to get his type of players into the program, he is starting to win.
This season the Longhorns are sitting at 6-2, but the losses came to Duke and Gonzaga, both in very competitive games. Both of those teams are ranked in the top 15 nationally, and there is zero shame in losing a close game to either one.
They actually had Duke on the ropes for most of the game before seeing Marvin Bagley, and the Dukies go on a tear and complete the come from behind win. This team is good and can play with any team in the country. A big reason why is freshman Mo Bamba.
When I say a big reason why I mean that literally. Mo Bamba is a giant with the longest wingspan I have ever seen. The 7-foot center has an over 8-foot wingspan. Bamba has used that size to his advantage so far, this season as he is averaging a double-double at 10 points and 10 boards a game to go with 4 blocks a game.
The big man is still learning how to play the game at a high level, but has been able to show great results on raw talent alone. Once Bamba figures out how to fully utilize that giant frame of his, he is going to dominate.
Big Blue is reeling a bit after losing a lot of last years squad that made a run to the Sweet 16. This team has talent, but they are not the same team that won 26 games last season. This is the epitome of a bubble team this year, in an absolutely stacked Big 10 conference.
The Wolverines have 3 losses on the season, all of which are somewhat understandable. They lost to LSU, Ohio State, and UNC, all teams that should be playing in March. But, they don’t have much in the way of good wins yet.
They beat UCLA in a dramatic comeback in their last game, but it’s looking like UCLA isn’t the team we thought they would be coming into the year, so we will have to play wait and see if that win holds up as a good one.
To me, this game comes down to two things. One, Texas is great at home. The Longhorns are undefeated so far at home this season, and as is the case with a lot of young teams, they are much better playing on their home court. And two, rebounding. Led by Bamba, this Texas team crashes the boards on every play on both sides of the ball.
Michigan? They are 305th in the country in rebounding. I see the Longhorns getting many second-chance opportunities and coupled with a dominant big man down low to get easy buckets, I feel that Texas is the team to back. The game should be a close one most of the way, but I see Texas closing the game down late and sneaking in a cover.
This line opened at Texas -6, and the public has bet it down to as low as 4.5 in some places. Whenever I get the chance to get on the other side of the public, I jump at the opportunity. Give me the Longhorns in a tight one -5 points, tonight from Austin.