Michigan is coming off a loss. Can it bounce back against UNLV in a big enough fashion to cover the spread? Top sportsbooks have released their betting odds for tonight’s contest between Michigan and UNLV. Michigan is coming off its first loss of the season as it was upset, in a nail-biter, by Seton Hall at home.
The Wolverines will look to bounce back against a UNLV squad that is 3-0 SU but 0-3 ATS. This is not an ordinary game: it forms part of the Roman Main Event tournament in Las Vegas and, depending on who wins or loses, the next opponent for either team is slated to be Arizona or Wichita State.
While this game takes place in Las Vegas, UNLV normally plays in the Thomas & Mack Center. Given the location of this game, a pro-UNLV crowd should obviously be expected. One may consider this to be a semi-home game for the Runnin’ Rebels.
Michigan Wolverines vs. UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
Friday, November 19, 2021 – 12:30 PM EST at T-Mobile Arena
Situationally, this is the perfect spot to take a heavily-favored team in case one is inclined to bet on Michigan for tonight’s game. Coming off a loss, the Wolverines promises to be especially motivated.
Last year, Juwan Howard’s squad responded well to losing. After a loss, Michigan went 3-1 ATS with double-digit wins against Maryland, twice, and Michigan State. The one non-cover came against lowly Texas Southern, which Michigan “only” beat by 16.
Michigan’s loss to Seton Hall is easy to shrug off because it took place in November and Michigan has big plans for March. But I think this loss showcased weaknesses of this Wolverine squad that will be apparent in March and throughout the season.
Problematically, Michigan failed to convert any of its first 10 three-point opportunities. By the contest’s conclusion, it was 3-of-15 from deep. This statistic from its last game, which currently pits Michigan at 182nd nationally in three-point percentage, represents a startling contrast to last year’s team.
Last season, Michigan boasted three players who converted over 40 percent of their three-point opportunities: Chaundee Brown, Isaiah Livers, and Mike Smith. All three of those players have since departed.
There were other good shooters, too, who helped Michigan rank 13th nationally in three-point percentage. But especially with those three guys gone, the Wolverines will have to rely on other ways of scoring, especially on days when Eli Brooks and Caleb Houstan are off.
Brooks was a strong shooter last year as he converted 39.6-percent of his three-point opportunities. Houstan is a highly-touted freshman, a former five-star recruit, who is most known for his range. His confidence from behind the arc is evident in his volume: he leads Michigan in three-point attempts. There are no longer a lot of guys who Michigan can rely on for three-point shooting.
Of course, there are still guys who the Wolverines can rely on to get buckets, even if not from deep. With one’s sports betting in mind, the key player here is center Hunter Dickinson, who led the team with 14.1 points per game last year and does so again this season with 18.7 points per game.
Dickinson’s scoring average was lower last year in part because he had to endure the physical Big Ten gauntlet. It is difficult even for the best of centers to endure the level of physicality posed by Big Ten opponents multiple times a week.
However, he promises to thrive against a much softer UNLV interior defense, a UNLV squad which, in its games against much weaker opponents, has always allowed the opposing team’s leading scorer to be a power forward or center.
One tool that Dickinson uses to thrive is his physicality, which he continues to develop, alongside his strength, as he bangs away in practice. At 7-1, 260 pounds, it is relatively easy or natural for Dickinson to use his strength and physicality. These traits also make him an avid rebounder, the team’s leading board-grabber.
What is more impressive about Dickinson right now is his improvement in other basketball aspects. He is taking better care of the ball, resulting in a lower turnover rate. He also shows greater endurance, more fluid movement on pick-and-rolls, and nice hook shots.
Dickinson will lead the Michigan charge against a Runnin’ Rebel frontcourt whose heaviest player in 225 pounds and whose tallest player is 6-10. Runnin’ Rebel centers concede a lot of size and strength to their Wolverine counterparts.
Besides Dickinson, Moussa Diabate has a good opportunity here to flex his superior talent. The former five-star recruit is known rather for his scoring versatility, for being a guy who can move away from the hoop, generate points in the mid-range, and pass effectively.
Michigan’s loss to Seton Hall may have raised premature questions about point guard DeVante’ Jones’ ability to succeed in the Big Ten. But know for your best bets that this question is moot tonight because UNLV is closer to the level of competition that the former Sun Belt Player of the Year is used to dominating.
After withdrawing from NBA Draft consideration, the NBA hopeful returns to a role where he primarily creates for others. He differs from his predecessor, Mike Smith, by being more physically aggressive. Jones is a much more effective rebounder and he is more adept at drawing fouls.
This willingness to be physical contributes to what I see as one of the major themes for Michigan’s offense in this game, led by Dickinson.
UNLV Offense vs Michigan Defense
Offensively, the Runnin’ Rebels have produced nowhere near the flurry of points that Michigan has, as in the latter’s 88-point scoring output against Buffalo. Conversely, UNLV has played only Gardner Webb, Cal, and North Dakota State. The Runnin’ Rebels are 0-3 ATS because of, among other reasons, their lack of scoring.
Their anemic offense has yet to exceed 64 points, thus showing a lack of firepower which is necessary to keep up Michigan’s offense and with a Wolverine team that owns the nation’s second-most efficient defense. New coach Kevin Kruger is trying to figure things out. He is deploying a different lineup in every game, experimenting with a three-point guard lineup against Cal, with a guard-and-wing lineup, and so forth.
A less talented offense is already at a disadvantage against Michigan’s top-ranked defense. A less-talented offense that is still very much trying to figure things out and that accordingly struggles against low-profile opponents will look more lost than ever tonight. For the above reasons, expect a Michigan blowout for your college basketball picks.
NCAAB Pick: Wolverines -13.5 with -105 at DraftKings