In the premier matchup of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, No. 1 Louisville will host No. 4 Michigan in a game featuring two undefeated teams. Louisville was expected to be one of the best teams in the nation this season, while some expected there to be a transition period when Juwan Howard took over at his alma mater when John Beilein left for the NBA. So far, the Wolverines have continued the success under the former Michigan great and are fresh of a surprising championship run at the Battle 4 Atlantis during feast week.
The Wolverines are led statistically by junior forward Isaiah Livers, who is shooting a ridiculous 51.2 percent from behind the three-point line and averaging 17 points. The heart and soul of the team, however, is senior point guard Zavier Simpson, who is currently sporting a 50.8 percent assist rate on the young season.
Louisville is led by preseason All-American forward Jordan Nwora, who has lived up the billing early on, averaging 21.9 points per game along with 6.9 rebounds and shooting 50 percent from behind the arc. The Cardinals are currently one of the highest-scoring teams in the country at 81.7 points per game. They recently welcomed back point guard David Johnson and center Malik Williams from injuries and are working both back into the rotation slowly.
The Cardinals are 5.5-point favorites at home in this one, with the over/under being set at 141.
Howard Looking For Fabulous Fifth Big Win
The Wolverines have the best tournament resume in the country right now, with wins over four Kenpom top 60 teams in Creighton, Iowa State, North Carolina, and Gonzaga. This week they jumped from unranked to No. 4 in the nation. Michigan is currently 25th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 12th in defensive efficiency, making it one of the most well-rounded teams in the entire nation. The Wolverines currently rank second in the nation in effective field goal percentage and ninth in three-point percentage at 42.4 percent from deep.
Michigan is a slow and deliberate team that runs good offense and takes good shots. On defense, the Wolverines don’t really turn their opponents over, but there is still an opportunity in this game with Louisville’s somewhat shaky point guard play.
The No. 1 team Needs A Quality Win
Thus far, the Cardinals have lived up to expectations and avoided any bad losses, but the only problem is they haven’t really beaten anyone outside of Miami on opening night. Western Kentucky has some NBA talent but hasn’t really put it together yet.
The Cardinals have all the makings of a No. 1 team, with depth, shooting, star power, coaching, and a great home court, but now they need to show that they can win the big game. They are currently top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, but they aren’t great at creating live-ball turnovers or protecting the rim, though Williams being available could certainly help there.
Prediction and Pick
Coming into this game, Michigan is 5-2 against the spread, while Louisville is 3-4 ATS. There is an opportunity here for Michigan to experience some regression as a letdown after such a huge run in the Bahamas, but this Wolverines team is made up of upperclassmen, and I really like the matchup of Simpson versus this Louisville point guard trio.
All of that said, Nwora is exceptional at home during his career at Louisville. Michigan should cover, but Louisville will win the game at home. Combined, these teams have gone over in eight of 14 games, as both are good defensively, but very efficient on offense. Take the over.