Odds & Pick for Rutgers vs. Michigan College Basketball: Back Scarlet Knights to Cover With Strong Defense
Rich Schultz/Getty Images. Pictured: Jacob Young.
- Michigan is closing in on a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and looks to notch another win on Thursday when it hosts Rutgers.
- The Scarlet Knights have rebounded from a rough start to Big Ten play thanks to their superior defense and will need it to cover a big spread.
- Can they do it? Brad Cunningham previews the matchup and makes his pick below.
Rutgers vs. Michigan Odds
Michigan looks to extend its lead a top the Big Ten standings Thursday when it hosts Rutgers.
Rutgers has completely rebounded from a terrible start to conference play, as it has won five of its last six games.
The Scarlet Knights are on this streak because Steve Pikiell’s guys are absolutely locking their opponents down on the defensive end of the floor. However, they now have to face one of the best offenses in the country, so it will be interesting to see if they’re up to the challenge.
Michigan returned from the two-week pause due to COVID-19 and looked rusty in the first half against Wisconsin on Sunday.
However, the Wolverines completely flipped the script in the second half and walked out of Madison with a huge victory. The win now puts Michigan 14-1 on the season and in pole position to get a No. 1 seed in March Madness.
Can it take care of business Thursday against a resurgent Rutgers squad?
When Rutgers has the ball
While Rutgers’ defense has been stellar to get the team back above .500 in Big Ten play, the Scarlet Knights’ offense hasn’t done them many favors.
The unit is averaging only 1.01 points per possession in conference play and is struggling in a few key areas. The Knights can’t get to the free-throw line, and even when they do, they can’t seem to make them. They are third-to-last in the Big Ten in free-throw rate and are shooting only 62.2% at the charity stripe.
Rutgers is also very average shooting the ball from all over the floor this season, ranking sixth in the Big Ten in effective field goal percentage. The Scarlet Knights will have to step up their offensive play on Thursday because they’ll be going up against one of the best defenses in the nation.
The Wolverines are the best defense in the Big Ten, allowing only 0.92 points per possession. The reason for that is because they defend the paint better than almost anybody else in the country allowing only 40.8% from 2-point range and 56.2% on shot attempts at the rim, per Hoop-Math.
It helps when you have 7-foot-1 Hunter Dickinson down low, as he’s one of the best shot blockers and defensive rebounders in the conference. Michigan doesn’t really have any weaknesses on defense, so it’s likely going to be a difficult night for Rutgers on the offensive end of the floor.
When Michigan has the ball
The Wolverines are not only the best defense in the Big Ten, but they also have one of the best offenses, averaging 1.10 points per possession.
Their offense pretty much runs right through Dickinson, who has one of the highest usage rates in the Big Ten and is averaging 14.9 points per game. If they aren’t able to get the ball to Dickinson, then Michigan has a number of different guards who have been dominating opposing defenses, most notably Isiah Livers, who is averaging 15 points per game and shooting better than 45% from 3-point range.
That seems to be a theme for Michigan, which is shooting its opponents out of the gym this season, ranking second in the Big Ten in both 2-point and 3-point field goal percentage.
However, the way teams beat Rutgers is on the offensive glass.
The Scarlet Knights allow one of the highest offensive rebound rates in the Big Ten, while Michigan has been average. Rutgers is solid in every other defensive metric and is allowing only 1.03 points per possession in conference play.
Michigan will need to create a lot of second-chance points if it wants to cover the large spread.
Betting Analysis & Pick
The way Rutgers’ defense has been playing over the past six games, I think it will keep the Scarlet Knights in this game against Michigan. I think the Wolverines are going to find it very difficult to generate consistent offense, especially since it’s only their second game since the pause.
I have Michigan projected as only a -7.74 favorite at home, so I think there’s some value on the Scarlet Knights at +9.5.
Pick: Rutgers +9.5 or better