Michigan vs. Minnesota Odds & Pick: Bet on the Gophers in Big Ten Basketball Battle of Contenders
John Autey / MediaNews Group / St. Paul Pioneer Press via Getty Images. Pictured: Marcus Carr.
- The red-hot Michigan Wolverines travel to Minneapolis, MN on Saturday afternoon to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers in a Big Ten battle.
- Michigan destroyed a Big Ten contender in Wisconsin on Tuesday, so the Wolverines are clearly playing some of their best basketball right now.
- However, BJ Cunningham still thinks the Golden Gophers can hang around at home, and he explains why below.
Michigan vs. Minnesota Odds
Michigan looks to remain red hot in Big Ten play when it travels to Minneapolis to try and sweep the Gophers.
Michigan is a perfect 11-0 to start the season and passed its first big test of the season on Wednesday, blowing out ninth-ranked Wisconsin, 77-54. The Wolverines went on a 36-3 run in the middle of the game to completely wipe out the Badgers.
This is perhaps the most complete team Juwan Howard has had in his short tenure on both side of the floor. Not only are they now considered Big Ten title contenders, but they are now in conversation to cut down the nets in April.
Minnesota lost in Ann Arbor only 10 days ago, 82-57. The Gophers were completely blown out and had no answers for Michigan at either end of the floor. However, this season has been a tale of two venues for the Gophers because all four of their losses have come on the road, while all 10 of their wins have come at home.
They’ve pulled off upsets against Saint Louis, Iowa, Michigan State, and Ohio State at Williams Arena. Can they remain perfect and knock off another ranked team at home Saturday?
When Michigan has the ball
The reason Michigan’s offense has been putting up 1.14 points per possession in Big Ten play is because of how often it gets to the basket. Not only is Michigan shooting 60.8% from 2-point range this season, but it’s averaging 76.2% on shots at the rim, which is the second-highest average in the country, per Hoop-Math.
However, it doesn’t stop there because Wolverines are also shooting over 38% from beyond the arc in Big Ten play. All of that has led them to rank seventh in the country in offensive efficiency, per KenPom, so this offense is no joke.
If there are a couple of areas to nitpick about Michigan, its the fact that it’s turning the ball over way too often in conference play (18.5%, 13th in Big Ten) and it’s not getting to the free-throw line often enough (292nd in free-throw rate nationally, per KenPom).
The shocking part is that Michigan is shooting over 80% from the line in conference play. So, Howard will undoubtedly make that a priority going forward.
When these teams met 10 days ago in Ann Arbor, Minnesota really struggled to defend the paint. It let 7-foot-1 Hunter Dickerson have his way down low, as he scored 28 points on 12-of-15 shooting from 2-point range. So, the Gophers will need to find an answer for him on Saturday.
But outside of that performance against Michigan, Minnesota has defended inside the arc pretty well. It allows only 46.6% shooting from 2-point range and owns a block rate of over 11%. The problem is that the Gophers allow over 57% at the rim, so they will need to drastically improve their rim protection if they are going to upset Michigan.
When Minnesota has the ball
Minnesota’s offense is drastically different at home than it is on the road. In 10 home games this season, the Gophers have averaged 1.09 points per possession at home, compared to 0.87 on the road.
The Gophers are not a good shooting team, ranking 262nd in college basketball in effective field goal percentage while shooting only 30.3% from 3-point range.
What Minnesota’s offense is reliant on is getting to the free-throw line. The Gophers are 29th in free-throw rate nationally and shoot over 75% from the charity stripe. In the first matchup against Michigan, Minnesota found its way to the free-throw line only six times, so it will need to force Michigan into more fouling situations if it’s going to have any chance of winning on Saturday.
Not only does Michigan have a top-10 offense in terms of efficiency, but it also boasts a top-10 defense. The Wolverines allow only 0.92 points per possession in Big Ten play, which is the best mark in the league. They held Wisconsin — a top-10 KenPom offense coming into the game — to 0.83 points per possession.
What makes this Michigan defense so good is how well it controls the paint. The Wolverines allow opponents to shoot only 38.3% from 2-point range, which is the best mark in the country. However, they struggle to defend the perimeter, as they give up over 35% from 3-point range in conference play.
Michigan is also an extremely disciplined team in the fact that it hardly fouls its opponents.
The Wolverines allow the fifth-lowest free-throw rate in the country, which is and was a problem for a free-throw dependent team like Minnesota in the first matchup.
Betting Analysis & Pick
There’s some kind of magic going on at Williams Arena for the Gophers this season. For whatever reason, they are a completely different team at home than they are on the road.
If they can either get to the rim at a high rate or shoot a decent percentage from deep, I think they will be able to hang with this Michigan team.
I have Michigan projected as only a -3.51 favorite, so I think there’s some value on the Gophers at +4.5 or better.
Pick: Minnesota +4.5 or better.