College Basketball Odds, Picks, Predictions for Michigan vs. UNLV: How to Bet This Roman Main Event Matchup
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
- Michigan travels to the Sin City to take on UNLV in the Roman Main Event.
- The Wolverines are coming off a loss to Seton Hall in the Gavitt Tipoff Games.
- Tanner McGrath breaks down the teams and where the value lies.
Michigan vs. UNLV Odds
-115o / -105u
-115o / -105u
Two of college basketball’s up-and-coming coaches face-off in the first round of the Roman Main Event, being held in Las Vegas.
Juwan Howard is the defending AP National Coach of the Year and is attempting to reload a team that reached the Elite Eight last season. After a tough loss to Seton Hall, that quest becomes slightly tougher.
Meanwhile, the son of Oklahoma legend Lon Kruger, Kevin Kruger, is off to a 3-0 start in his first season as head coach of the Rebels. Considering he had to replace four starters, that’s a strong beginning.
However, does Kruger’s rebuilt roster have the juice to cover 12.5 points against this powerhouse Michigan team?
The Wolverines collapsed against Seton Hall in the Gavitt Tipoff Games. However, that seems to be the Big Ten theme so far, with Illinois pulling a similar trick against Marquette.
Things have been ugly for the Big Ten so far. The whole conference is just 12-20 against the spread (ATS) in the early season.
Michigan hasn’t been different, as its just 1-2 ATS to begin the year.
Despite Michigan out-rebounding the Pirates while holding them to an 8:11 assist-to-turnover ratio, Michigan was out-scored 23-13 in the final 10 minutes of regulation. The Wolverines went just 3-for-15 from deep.
Looking at the box score, it seems a bit flukey. Michigan held the Pirates to just .84 points per possession, but could only manage .81 of its own, likely due to poor perimeter shooting.
So, for this game, look for Howard to get the ball inside to Hunter Dickinson early and often. He’s averaging 19/8/2 through the first three games and he should have a field day against a smaller UNLV frontcourt.
DeVante’ Jones will look to continue to progress in his new role. While he recorded 10 assists and just two turnovers in the first two games, he posted three and three in the loss to Seton Hall.
Plus, he’s been average running the pick-and-roll with Dickinson (.75 points per possession, 52nd percentile). Mike Smith excelled running that set with Dickinson last season, so Jones needs to build more chemistry with the superstar center.
This UNLV experiment is going to be very fun. Kruger is unproven and is attempting to replace over 80% of UNLV’s minutes from the previous season.
However, the transfers he brought in are experienced and the team’s 2.42 average years of experience rank 50th in Division I.
However, while Kruger has brought in a lot of older talent, I’m very curious to see how this team meshes. There are three guards transferring to UNLV in Jordan McCabe (West Virginia), Michael Nuga (Kent State), and Justin Webster (Hawaii).
All three guards are tasked with playing second-fiddle to returning top-scorer Bryce Hamilton. Through three games, only New Orleans’ Derek St Hilaire has taken a higher percentage of his team’s shots than Hamilton. Hamilton’s taken 43.8% of the Rebels’ attempts, averaging 17 points per game in the process.
It’s very much a work in process for Kruger, but it looks like McCabe will start in the backcourt alongside Hamilton while Nuga runs at the three. Meanwhile, 6-foot-4 incoming freshman Keshon Gilbert will play point for the second unit.
This is a rather talented roster, and definitely a wildcard in the Mountain West. However, it might take a while to build the right chemistry and lineup combinations, as the Rebels are 0-3 ATS to start the season.
Michigan vs. UNLV Betting Pick
While UNLV is winless ATS, the Rebels have yet to be an underdog. That could make them frisky in this game.
Kruger’s team hasn’t found any offense outside of Hamilton and the team ranks 323rd in eFG% so far this season (40.5%). But, they’ve made up for it on the defensive end, allowing the 41st-lowest eFG% (41.8%) and ranking in the 76th percentile in points per possession allowed (.742).
Michigan is, of course, a dominant defensive team, as well. The Wolverines rank second in KenPom defensive efficiency.
Howard’s squad has been just average on the offensive end so far this season (.866 points per possession, 50th percentile), as he attempts to integrate Jones and Caleb Houstan into the offense.
As a result, this game is going to be a slog. Take into account that both teams play slow (Michigan 224th in tempo, UNLV 246th), and that becomes even more true.
So, it may seem like I’m arguing for the under. However, I think the 134 number is fairly sharp and doesn’t provide too much value.
Instead, grabbing a big underdog in a low-tempo game with a low total is always a smart play. Plus, Hamilton’s tendency for late-game heroics could come into play if UNLV has to backdoor the number.
Bryce Hamilton is excelling as UNLV’s unquestioned go-to guy.
The senior is shooting 58.8 percent in the final five minutes of games and has scored 23 of UNLV’s 31 points during those stretches. All wins. pic.twitter.com/s2ThjqqHul
— Mike Grimala (@MikeGrimala) November 18, 2021
The worry is that Dickinson will dominate a UNLV front-court rotation that stands 6-foot-6, 6-foot-9 and 6-foot-10. The 7-footer could overwhelm the interior and dominate the offensive glass. That would spell bad news for Rebel backers.
At the time of this writing, I haven’t found a market for player props in this game. But if one comes out, I’d love betting Dickinson to score 20+ as a slight hedge.
Hopefully, however, Hamilton and Dickinson both score enough so we cash both.
Pick: UNLV +12.5 (Play to 12) | Hunter Dickinson o20.5 points or better
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