NCAA Tuesday Night Basketball: Michigan/Wisconsin Preview

by Big Al Staff

A college basketball doubleheader on ESPN tips off at 7 PM ET in a battle between two Big Ten teams nationally ranked in the top-ten.

Michigan is one of the surprises of the college basketball season. They join Gonzaga and Baylor as the only programs from major conferences that have yet to lose this season. The Wolverines raised their record to 10-0 last Wednesday with an 82-57 victory at home against Minnesota as an 8-point favorite. They begin the week ranked seventh in the nation in the Associated Press poll.

Head coach Juwan Howard had three starters return from the team that finished 19-12 last season. Isaiah Livers averaged 12.9 points-per-game while shooting 40.9% from 3-point range. Franz Wagner was on the Big Ten All-Freshman team with an 11.6 points-per-game average. Eli Brooks added 10.6 points-per-game in his sophomore season. Howard brought-in two impact transfer players in seniors Mike Smith from Columbia and Chaundee Brown from Wake Forest. Yet it has been freshman Hunter Dickinson who has been the difference-maker for this team. The four-star recruit is scoring 18.0 points-per-game while adding 8.1 rebounds-per-game.

Michigan ranks sixth in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom while also ranking 20th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Howard’s team shoots the ball well and while playing strong fundamental defense. The Wolverines are seventh in the nation with an effective field goal percentage of 59.0%. Their opponent’s effective field goal percentage of 43.8% is 13th best in the country. Yet Michigan will face their stiffest test this season against the Badgers. The Wolverines' highest-profile victory was against the Golden Gophers last week. Their best non-conference opponent was Central Florida. They have played eight of their ten games at home.

Howard’s team started fast last season as well in his first year as a head coach. Michigan rose to rank fourth in the nation after a 7-0 start with victories against Creighton, North Carolina, and Gonzaga before they went 12-12 the rest of the way. Yet before presuming a similar slide is destined for this year’s team, remember that Livers suffered an injury that kept him out of ten games in the second half of the season.

Wisconsin has won their last two games and seven of their last eight after outlasted Indiana in double-overtime on Thursday by an 80-73 score as a 9-point favorite. The Badgers are 10-2 and rank ninth in the nation by the AP.

Head coach Greg Gard has one of the most experienced teams in the nation. Five seniors who scored at least 8.7 points-per-game on the team that shared the Big Ten title with Michigan State and Maryland are back. This core is all averaging at least 9.8 points-per-game this season, with D’Mitrik Rice leading the way with a 14.8 points-per-game scoring average along with 3.3 rebounds-per-game and 3.7 assists-per-game.

Wisconsin ranks tenth in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom while also ranking seventh in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Badgers are making 41.4% of their 3-point shots, fourth-best in the nation. Gard’s group is also 12th in the country by holding their opponents to 41.9% shooting inside the arc. They have high-profile victories against Louisville, Michigan State, and the Minnesota team that the Wolverines just beat. Wisconsin’s two losses were at Marquette and home to Maryland.

BookMaker lists Michigan as a 3.5-point favorite with the total set at 134.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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