College Basketball Betting: Michigan at Connecticut Preview
by Matt Severance - 02/06/2009
It's too bad for the slumping Michigan Wolverines that top-ranked Connecticut isn't instead the nation's fourth-ranked team.
That's because UM is 2-0 against No. 4 teams this year, having beaten UCLA and Duke (the second time). So does that mean the Wolverines have a chance on Saturday night against the rampaging Huskies? Well, on the bright side for Michigan backers, the Wolverines played their best game in weeks on Thursday night, beating Penn State by 20. And UConn is just 1-5 ATS at home, which is fairly shocking. In addition, Connecticut's lone loss this season did come in Storrs.
But pretty much every other number favors a Huskies victory.
Michigan is just 1-19 all-time against the top-ranked team in the land, with that victory coming way back in 1997 against Duke. And against ranked teams not at No. 4, Michigan is 0-2 this season, both losses in double figures. That win Thursday over the Nittany Lions was just Michigan's second victory in the past seven games overall. And UM has been a terrible bet on the road, going 0-5-1 ATS.
Connecticut has won 10 games in a row and is coming off a thorough 17-point beatdown of No. 7 Louisville at the Cards' place on Monday night.
"Defensively and attacking pressure, it was maybe our best game of the year and it was a great time to do it," coach Jim Calhoun said to reporters afterward.
UConn has an edge in the frontcourt over just about any team, and it will have a massive advantage over Michigan, especially with UM coach John Beilein's lineup change Thursday.
Beilein removed second-leading scorer DeShawn Sims, who had started every game since November, and Kelvin Grady, with Zack Gibson and Zack Novak getting the starts against Penn State. Beilein said he "probably" would stay with a starting lineup of Manny Harris, Novak, Gibson, Laval Lucas-Perry and C.J. Lee for Saturday's game, which is a bit of a surprise in that it means Michigan will trot out four guards and one 6-foot-10 forward in Gibson, who averages 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in just over 13 minutes a game, against a super-talented Huskies frontcourt.
Connecticut makes its living by dominating inside, as proven by the fact that it has taken more free throws than its opponent every game this season. On Monday, the Huskies were 20-for-24 while Louisville was 2-for-2. The Huskies turned UL post players Earl Clark and Samardo Samuels into non-factors, and those two players are pretty good.
UConn's defense all starts with Hasheem Thabeet, who has had consecutive double-doubles and is averaging 13 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. He's tied for second in the nation with 88 blocks. The Wolverines have 67 blocks as a team.
"[Thabeet] overpowered our young guys," coach Rick Pitino said.
A Michigan win would be a huge, huge boost to its sinking NCAA Tournament hopes, but the Huskies should have their way. The opening line sees the Huskies listed as 17.5-point favorites.