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Odds & Pick for Michigan vs. Wisconsin College Basketball: Target the Total After Wolverines’ Long Layoff

Odds & Pick for Michigan vs. Wisconsin College Basketball: Target the Total After Wolverines’ Long Layoff article feature image

Nic Antaya/Getty Images. Pictured: Juwan Howard.

  • After a 24-day layoff due to COVID-19 protocols, Michigan returns to the hardwood on Sunday.
  • The Wolverines take on a Wisconsin team that has been struggling at times offensively.
  • Between that and Michigan's time off, Tanner McGrath sees value on the total.

Michigan vs. Wisconsin Odds

Michigan Odds +1.5 (-120)
Wisconsin Odds -1.5 (+100)
Moneyline -105 / -115
Over/Under 132.5
Time | TV Sunday, 1 p.m. ET | CBS
Odds as of Sunday morning and via BetMGM.

Michigan basketball is back.

After a two-week hiatus in play due to the university’s COVID-19 protocols, the Wolverines are cleared to play against Wisconsin today.

Yesterday, the NCAA placed Michigan as the No. 3 overall seed in its early bracket reveal. I firmly believe Michigan is the best team in the Big Ten and also the third-best team in the country.

However, how will the Wolverines fare after not playing for 24 days?

Michigan will be playing against an up-and-down Wisconsin team. The Badgers are just 3-3 in their last six games, and the offense has been mediocre at best.

I’m very interested in this game. It can tell us a lot about what kind of team Michigan is. A decisive win today after a long pause in play would reflect very well on Juwan Howard and the Wolverine roster.

Extra Rest

I’ve spent a lot of time in my time at The Action Network writing about these two teams.

Michigan pairs an elite offense with an elite defense and can beat any team in the nation. Meanwhile, Wisconsin has issues on offense, primarily due to the lack of a No. 1 option, but its experience and team defense keep the Badgers relevant.

However, given Michigan’s long break in play, we must toss out any previous analysis. Instead, we have to find creative ways to evaluate this matchup given the circumstances.

So, I did some research on Michigan and Wisconsin playing after different periods of rest.

There isn’t too much to analyze with Wisconsin, Wisconsin is 48-46 against the spread (ATS) with two or three days of rest since Greg Gard became the head coach, per The Badgers are also 28-17 ATS with a rest disadvantage in that time.

Michigan, obviously, has a much-more unique situation. Since Howard became the head coach last season, the Wolverines are 6-6 ATS with a rest advantage and 8-6 ATS with four or more days of rest.

But the Wolverines having 24 days between games during a season is unprecedented. Since 2004, Michigan has had 10 or more days between games just 10 times. Michigan is 3-7 straight-up (SU) and 4-5-1 ATS in those games, per our SportsInsights database.

However, Michigan has also won and covered in its last two games with 10-plus days of rest. It beat Nebraska on the road by 11 as 7.5-point favorites in Dec. 2020 and beat Penn State at home by 13 as 11.5-point favorites in Jan. 2019.

The Wolverines have played just one game on 13-plus days of rest. It was actually against Wisconsin, which they played after 18 days of rest in 2008. Wisconsin won that game by 12 points in Ann Arbor as 8.5-point favorites.

Betting Analysis & Pick

So, what do we make of all this information?

First, it’s clear that Michigan is the better team. Michigan is the only team other than Gonzaga and Baylor that ranks in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, per KenPom. Michigan is 13-1 overall, 6-1 in conference play and 11-3 ATS.

Additionally, Michigan’s roster is one of the most talented in the nation. Its backcourt features excellent facilitators, and it might have the best two-way frontcourt in the country.

However, it’s almost impossible to handicap the Wolverines in this situation. But through a combination of historical trends and deductive logic, I believe there’s value in the under.

Michigan and Wisconsin are first and second in the Big Ten in defensive efficiency, respectively. The under is 6-3-1 in the last 10 games between the two, and the under is 4-1 in Wisconsin’s last five games.

Plus, while Michigan’s offense has been spectacular, Wisconsin’s offense has been very mediocre. Wisconsin is 10th in the Big Ten in offensive efficiency and has scored a measly 121 points over its last two games.

Finally, I can see a scenario in which Michigan’s offense is much slower to recover than its defense. The skillset required for effective offense is more vulnerable to long lapses in play than the skillset required for effective defense, especially considering the Wolverines’ length and athleticism.

So, while I think Michigan will struggle to score, I also think its elite defense will keep the game close.

Therefore, by combining a sluggish Michigan offense, an outright bad Wisconsin offense and two elite defenses, the under looks like a great play.

The argument is somewhat circumstantial, but gamblers must get creative during COVID-19 years. I’m going to play the under 132.5 and would bet it to 131.5.

Pick: Under 132.5 (down to 131.5).

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