Predictions and free NCAA basketball picks are just ahead as we dive into the Sweet 16 matchup between the Michigan Wolverines and Villanova Wildcats.
Michigan Wolverines vs. Villanova Wildcats
Thursday, March 24, 2022 – 07:29 PM EDT at AT&T Center
Though it may be the biggest mismatch Thursday according to their seeds, we shouldn’t let that fool us when Michigan and Villanova get together in the opening clash of the South Region. Lest we forget, the Wolverines and Wildcats were each favored by the college basketball futures to win their respective conferences, making this anything but a normal 11/2 matchup.
Villanova followed through on those preseason predictions by becoming the automatic qualifier from the Big East. It’s the 41st NCAA Tournament appearance for the Wildcats and their fourth Sweet 16 in the last six tourneys. Michigan slogged through the regular season and is playing in its 31st NCAA Tournament, making it to the Sweet 16 in the last five events.
Third March Madness Meeting for Programs
In addition to trying to make up for underachieving during the regular season, Michigan’s Juwan ‘Rocky’ Howard is seeking some personal redemption following his suspension for conduct unbecoming a head coach. PointsBet is carrying Villanova as 4½-point chalk with the scoreboard target set at 135½.
While there isn’t a lot of history between the two programs, there are some recent matchups to look back on as well as a couple of clashes at the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats and Wolverines last met in Philadelphia early in the 2018-19 campaign, and Michigan destroyed Villanova on its home floor in a 73-46 rout.
That collision was a rematch of their meeting in the 2018 NCAA Championship about seven months earlier, a contest that also took place in San Antonio where Villanova posted a 79-62 decision as 7-point chalk at top sportsbooks. Trailing early, the Wildcats turned to secret weapon Donte DiVincenzo who pumped in 31 points off the bench to beat the Wolverines.
The Wildcats and Wolverines also met in the second round of the 1985 Southeast Region. That was the year of Villanova’s magical run to the NCAA Championship as a No. 8 seed. The tournament that year is notable for two other reasons: The first for the field to be expanded to 64 teams and three Big East schools making it to the Final Four.
Dickinson Inside vs. Gillespie Outside
Michigan surprised a little bit in the Round of 32, not so much by beating Tennessee 76-68, but being able to reach the 75-point plateau against a strong Volunteers defense. That was about 10-15 points more than many expected, and the extra scoring on the Wolverines’ part was a big reason why the final went past a 136½-point total.
With the contest knotted 60-apiece and a little more than five minutes to go, Eli Brooks went to work to lead Michigan’s 16-8 closing run. Brooks had 23 points for the game to go with five assists, while Hunter Dickinson scored a game-high 27 and added 11 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season.
Villanova took charge early in its second-round matchup with Ohio State, never trailing in the game and posting a 71-61 final to double up the 5-point spread on college basketball odds boards. Some of the hot-shooting the Wildcats enjoyed early on petered out, and that allowed the Buckeyes to close to within a bucket with a little under six minutes to go.
Collin Gillespie was once again an extension of Jay Wright on the floor for the Wildcats, and the Big East Player of the Year finished with a team-high 20. Villanova outscored the Buckeyes 17-6 at the free-throw line, and it’s important not to overlook the fact the Wildcats lead the nation at the charity stripe where they shoot 82.6% as a team.
Can Common Opponents Tell Us Anything?
Though they haven’t met in the last three seasons, Villanova and Michigan did share a trio of common opponents this past season, including a pair of NCAA Tournament squads. The Wildcats just beat Ohio State and covered in the process, while the Wolverines split their two matchups against the Buckeyes, straight up and against the spreads at online betting sites.
Michigan splits its two games with Purdue, covering the spreads in both contests. Villanova lost to the Boilermakers at the Hall of Fame Top-Off in November, the 80-74 final covering a 3-point spread. The Wolverines’ first loss of the season was an upset at home to Seton Hall, a team the Wildcats beat twice by identical 73-67 NCAAB scores.
Michigan’s regular-season finale against Ohio State and Villanova’s matchup with the Buckeyes this past Sunday showed us how much closer the Wolverines and Wildcats are than their seed lines might indicate. Let’s burn the candle on both ends in this Sweet 16 matchup with plays on the underdog and the ‘over.’
NCAAB Picks: Michigan +4½ (-110) and Over 135½ (-110) with PointsBet