Michigan vs. North Carolina NCAA Basketball Picks and Predictions

Brandon Johns Jr. #23 of Michigan drives to the basket against UCLA. Andy Lyons/Getty Images/AFP

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge concludes this evening with 24th ranked Michigan traveling to Chapel Hill to play North Carolina. The Wolverines are a small favorite, can they pull out a win and cover on the road?

We begin the final day of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Tonight, there will be six more battles on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU. The feature matchup is Michigan vs. North Carolina, as they meet for the first time in two years in this same event. The Wolverines won that contest at the Dean Dome 73-63 as three-point underdogs.

Michigan Wolverines vs. North Carolina Tar Heels

Wednesday, December 1, 2021 – 09:15 pm EST at Dean E. Smith Center

As the day starts, the Big Ten has a 6-2 edge through two days. BetRivers and other top-line sportsbooks opened this encounter as a Pick. With how the money came in, the betting odds now favor Michigan at -1.5 points.

Wolverines Will Have to Show More Grit

Color Michigan a mild disappointment at 4-2 (2-4 ATS), not showing the toughness or “onions” as FOX/CBS analyst Bill Raftery has said for years. The Wolverines and Purdue were considered the favorites to win the Big Ten and while that might play out that way in February and March, a stunning setback to Seton Hall and blowout by Arizona has many wondering what is up.

Since taking over as head coach, few negative things have been associated with Juwan Howard’s name. The talent appears in place with the likes of guard Eli Brooks and center Hunter Dickinson.

To this juncture, the others that were supposed to fit right in have not. Freshman F/C Moussa Diabate has looked lost at times and is far better on defense and rebounding, with a raw offensive game.

Last year’s Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year Devante Jones has not found a comfort zone in his game and neither has Caleb Houston. This team has something to prove to itself.

Tar Heels Have to Take Care of the Orange

With Roy Williams’s retirement, everyone assumed there would be growing pains, especially with Hubert Davis only being an assistant and not a head coach. Though Davis understands what it takes at North Carolina (4-2, 0-6 ATS), knowing and doing can be two different experiences. Ask Bill Guthridge and Matt Doherty what it was like to follow Dean Smith.

Against Brown, Charleston, Purdue and Tennessee, the Tar Heels conceded 88 points a game on average. In those contests, everyone but Charleston shot over 50 percent. Among the most egregious aspects of giving up so many points was the utter lack of weakside defense, which found all three opponents driving to the basket with ease or having wide-open shots.

The problem versus the Cougars was -9 in turnovers and Charleston had 77 shot attempts, which was 18 more than the Heels. Davis cannot be happy that in all but one contest, his team had less than 12 turnovers and as many as 18.

What is the Best Side to Be On?

For both clubs, this is an important contest, because they will each have only one more true test before the start of conference play and they need the preparation. Here is what this battle comes down to for college basketball picks.

The Wolverines are connecting on 48.1 percent of their shots, but only 29.1% from behind the three-point line. UNC has given up easy off-ball baskets, but unless Michigan can cash those in, the Tar Heels will be fine.

North Carolina has to protect the ball and have far greater intensity on defense, as the offense appears more than adequate in scoring 83.2 PPG, making 48.7% of attempts and draining 41.4% from deep.

With both teams’ weaknesses legit, whoever cleans them up best can win. With the Heels at home against a meaningful foe, backed by a highly partisan crowd and the home team superior in converting free throws, a very minor home upset is our call.

NCAAB Pick: North Carolina +1.5 (-109) at BetRivers