College Basketball Betting Previews: Michigan at Louisville and Duke at Michigan State
Monday’s NCAA card is fairly light, but on Tuesday college basketball bettors will be treated to two fantastic matchups featuring some of the nation’s best teams. Let’s take a look at these two games and how the four teams have fared so far.
Michigan Wolverines at Louisville Cardinals
This game features arguably the two hottest teams in all of college basketball. It looks like it will be an offensive battle. Both Louisville and Michigan rank in the 99th percentile in points per possession. So far, there’s been nothing these teams cannot do on the offensive end of the floor. Both in transition and in the half-court, both clubs have excelled. One area where Louisville may have an advantage is on transition offense, where the Cardinals are scoring 1.3 PPP, putting them in the 98th percentile nationwide. Meanwhile, Michigan is having trouble defending in transition, surrendering 1.041 PPP, placing them in the 24th percentile. The Wolverines have been very solid defending in the half-court so we could see Louisville try to attack Michigan and play at a high pace. However, this would be a departure for the Cardinals, as the team has been comfortable playing slowly this year, with a pace rating of only 66.3. Michigan has been a fair bit quicker, playing at a pace rating of 72.7, so it will be an interesting game tempo-wise, as the matchup may compel Louisville to play with a style that is more in keeping with Michigan’s comfort zone.
Michigan has perhaps the best resume in the nation to date. Tuesday’s game against Louisville will be the Wolverines’ first since it rolled to the title in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Playing three games in three days proved no problem for Michigan and new Head Coach Juwan Howard, as it registered convincing wins against Iowa State, North Carolina, and Gonzaga. The championship win against the Bulldogs was the best performance of any team so far this season, as Michigan dominated the favored WCC team. The game was tied at 12 after seven minutes of play, but the Wolverines led the rest of the way. Michigan continued its blistering shooting start, hitting 54% from the field and 52% from distance. Michigan ranks second in TS% and FG% as well as tenth in 3FG%, While it projected to be a solid shooting team, a 53% field goal percentage and 42.4% three-point percentage are simply not sustainable. If a correction is going to take place, this could be the game where it begins. Louisville ranks 19th in true shooting percentage allowed and opponent field goal percentage.
Add to the increased difficulty created by Louisville’s defense Michigan’s difficult travel spot, and the Wolverines may come back to earth here. Michigan was in the Bahamas for its early season tournament and now face a quick turnaround that sees it travel to Louisville, where the Cardinals are 6-0 SU. However, Louisville is only 1-4 ATS. Despite that, there’s no team that has been more elevated in the public perception than Michigan. Big wins against North Carolina and Gonzaga have convinced many that the Wolverines are a legitimate title contender, and that could push the line down.
Louisville have struggled to cover the spread so far this year, but the team’s frontcourt will provide a big test to the traveling Wolverines. Star Jordan Nwora is off to a great start, averaging 21.9 PPG in only 29 MPG. Nwora, combined with bigs Steven Enoch and Malik Williams will present a real challenge to the so-far productive Jon Teske and Isaiah Livers. Enoch and Williams are stronger than Gonzaga bigs Corey Kispert, Killian Tillie, and Filip Petrusev, and could wear down Michigan’s two leading scorers.
Highly-touted freshman David Johnson has returned from injury recently for Louisville, but is being eased back into action. He has played only sixteen minutes over the last two games. However, against a quality opponent like Michigan, he may provide much-needed help off the bench.
While it is difficult to bet against a team playing as well as Michigan, this is a totally different sort of test for the Wolverines and their new head coach. Quality wins on short rest in a neutral setting are worthy of respect, but this is Howard’s first true road game, and it comes after a difficult travel situation and takes place in one of the most hostile atmospheres in all of college basketball.
Duke Blue Devils at Michigan State Spartans
It has been a strange start for both of these teams. Michigan State was the top team in the preseason AP poll and Duke was not far behind, coming in at number four. However, both teams have already suffered losses. The Spartans have actually lost twice already, falling in their first game against Kentucky and then being upset 71-66 by Virginia Tech in Maui. Despite that, you could argue that Duke’s start has come with even greater embarrassment. The Blue Devils lost in overtime at home to minnows Stephen F. Austin, while ranked number one. The 85-83 loss was truly one of the greatest upsets in the history of college basketball and was the first time in almost 20 years that a non-conference team beat Duke at home.
Duke struggled mightily to defend the Southland Conference team inside the three-point line, allowing 34 field goals on only 64 shots from two-point range. This area of concern showed itself again against Winthrop. Duke won 83-70, but failed to cover as a 24.5-point favorite. Winthrop shot 23-for-45 from two-point range. If these struggles continue, it could be a long night in Lansing as the Blue Devils may not be able to contain the likes of Aaron Henry and Xavier Tillman.
Michigan State star and leader Cassius Winston has continued his high level of play despite the recent tragic loss of his brother. Winston did struggle against Virginia Tech, but has bounced back since, averaging 24 PPG and 6 APG in recent wins against Georgia and UCLA. Now, Winston draws one of the most difficult matchups in the nation at the point guard position. Defensive whiz Tre Jones is a fantastic on-ball defender. This is particularly important playing at Michigan State. So much of what the Spartans do centers around Winston, and whoever gets the best of this matchup will likely win the game.
Vernon Carey Jr., one of the best freshman in the country, has had a very good start to the season, averaging 18.4 PPG and 9.5 RPG. However, much of Carey’s production has come against lesser opposition. In Duke’s toughest game, a two-point win over Kansas, Carey struggled, scoring 11 points on 3-for-8 shooting against a quality Kansas frontcourt. Now, Carey gets his first taste of life on the road. This will be his first true road test, and they don’t get much harder than one against Tom Izzo in Lansing. Xavier Tillman and Aaron Henry are more experienced than Carey, and will not be in awe of his raw talent.
Despite the fact that Michigan State has one more loss than Duke to this point, there may be bigger underlying issues facing a young Duke team than a Spartans squad that has the experienced Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman to lean on during times of adversity. Michigan State are 2-0 ATS as a home team this season, and are a phenomenal 34-15-1 ATS since 2016. This will be a valuable teaching moment for Duke boss Mike Krzyzewski and the experience gained here will be important come ACC play, but it looks like a difficult spot on Tuesday night for his Blue Devils.