NCAA Tournament Betting Picks: Ohio University vs. Michigan Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 3/14/2012
The irony of Friday night’s second-round Midwest Region NCAA Tournament game in Nashville between Ohio University and Michigan is that Wolverines football Coach Brady Hoke refuses to call Michigan’s hated rivals Ohio State that full name just out of principle – the Buckeyes are simply referred to as Ohio. Well, the “real” Ohio is UM’s first opponent in the Big Dance and these Bobcats did something that their state-brethren Buckeyes didn’t in basketball this season: win their conference tournament championship.
It’s the 22nd tournament appearance for fourth-seeded Michigan (24-9), the Big Ten regular-season co-champions, and second in a row. Last year, the Wolverines slaughtered Tennessee, 75-45, for their first NCAA win since 1998. It was the largest margin of victory ever by a No. 8 seed over a No. 9 and it officially ended Bruce Pearl’s coaching career at UT. Michigan then pushed top-seeded Duke to the limit in the Round of 32 before falling, 73-71.
No. 13 Ohio University (27-7) finished third in the Mid-American East Division but won the MAC Tournament with a 64-63 upset of top-ranked Akron in the championship game (actually, Ohio was a slight favorite). This is the 12th NCAA appearance for Ohio but first since 2010. That year, the Bobcats pulled a major shocker, easily handling third-seeded Georgetown 97-83 in the Round of 64 before losing to Tennessee. Ohio has won multiple games in the tournament just once, in 1964. And that year the Bobcats’ season was ended by Michigan in the regional final.
Ohio at Michigan Betting Story Lines
When the Wolverines have lost of late, it has been by double digits – UM’s past four losses have come that way. And Michigan didn’t look good in its Big Ten Tournament semifinal, getting blown out, 77-55, by Ohio State. The game before that, Michigan was lucky to win in overtime against a bad Minnesota team. So this team isn’t peaking. However, that good news is that Michigan hasn’t lost two in a row all season.
Starting quick clearly is key for Michigan. In six of their losses the Wolverines got off to a terrible start. They fell behind Duke, 9-0; fell behind Indiana, 17-6; fell behind Michigan State, 19-9; fell behind Arkansas, 17-5; fell behind Purdue, 12-2; and, in their Big Ten tournament semifinal, fell behind Ohio State, 16-3.
Michigan isn’t a high-scoring team, ranking No. 202 in the nation at 66.5 points per game, because it is so small – near the bottom of the country in rebounding -- and relies heavily on the three-point shot. UM’s offense runs through freshman point guard Trey Burke and often has four guards on the floor at once. Burke was only 1-for-11 with eight turnovers in the Big Ten tourney vs. OSU. Sometimes a freshman plays like a freshman.
Ohio U is coached by Jim Croce, a long-time assistant of current Ohio State coach Thad Matta. Croce also has a small team but likes to play in attack mode, which means up-tempo on offense and pressure on defense. That defense ranks second in the country by forcing a turnover on 26.7 percent of an opponent's possessions. And Ohio limits opponents to 62 points a game (55th in the nation) and 28.9 percent from three-point range (11th). Ohio U isn’t a great shooting team, especially from behind the arc. Despite not being that big, Ohio did lead the MAC by averaging 12.7 offensive boards per game behind 6-foot-8 forwards Ivo Baltic and Reggie Keely.
The best player on the floor Friday might be Bobcats guard D.J. Cooper, the MAC Tournament MVP who averages 14.6 points, 5.7 assists and 2.4 steals. Cooper had 23 points and eight assists in that upset of Georgetown two years ago. Junior guard Walter Offutt, an Ohio State transfer, is the only other player averaging double figures in points at 11.7.
The Bobcats are clearly legit, setting a school record for wins. They beat Lamar, which won the Southland Conference Tournament and played in the First Four on Wednesday night, and UNC-Asheville, another NCAA Tournament team. Ohio U also beat Marshall and Northern Iowa, two very solid mid-majors in the NIT. And the Bobcats only lost by five at then-No. 7 Louisville, which would eventually win the Big East Tournament. Ohio and Michigan did play one common opponent: Oakland (Mich.). The Bobcats won in Oakland’s gym, 84-82, on Dec. 7. Michigan did the same three days later, 90-80 (technically neutral site at Auburn Hills).
Michigan is 3-0 against Ohio but hasn't faced the school since 1971. The winner of this game faces the Temple-South Florida/California winner on Sunday. Michigan hasn't been to the Sweet 16 since 1994.
Ohio at Michigan Betting Odds and Key Trends
Michigan is a six-point favorite with the total at 124 on NCAA Tournament odds. Ohio U is 13-13 ATS on the season but 0-3 ATS in neutral sites (all were wins, however, in the MAC Tournament). Michigan is 17-12-1 ATS on the season and 3-3 ATS at neutral sites (4-2 W-L record in those games).
Ohio is 7-0 ATS in its past seven nonconference games. The Bobcats are 0-4 ATS in their past four games against the Big Ten (none this year). Michigan is 10-2 ATS in its past 12 games after an ATS loss. UM is 3-1-1 ATS in its past five nonconference games. The ‘over’ is 5-0 in Michigan’s past five games.
NCAA Tournament Betting Picks: Ohio at Michigan Predictions
The good news for Ohio is that it defends what Michigan does well – the three-point shot – and that UM is one of the few teams in this Big Dance that won’t have a size advantage against the Bobcats. If Ohio’s experienced guards can rattle Burke like Ohio State did, an upset is a possibility.
Michigan must get a good game out of fellow guard Tim Hardaway, who has been very up and down. The Wolverines are 10-2 when he scores at least 16 points and 6-0 when he reaches 20 points. Both teams are very streaky so it’s likely all about tempo.
I am not picking the upset, but I would take the Bobcats and the points – presuming Cooper doesn’t get into foul trouble or injured -- as well as the over.
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