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A premier early-season match up here as the Louisville Cardinals host the Michigan Wolverines as part of the ACC vs Big 10 challenge. Both teams are undefeated and a perfect 7-0, as Michigan enters this one ranked 4th in the nation while Louisvillesits atop the latest AP poll. Oddsmakers have Louisville as a modest favorite here for this one, which will be televised nationally on ESPN.
Michigan Starts HotMichigan has probably been the most pleasant surprise in all of college basketball this season. After they lost key players to the NBA as well as head coach John Beilein after last season, most observers expected the Wolverines to take a significant step back this year. They started the season off unranked, and have since made everyone look quite foolish. They've started the year off with seven straight wins, and just this past week beat both North Carolina and Gonzaga on neutral courts, both teams ranked inside the top 10. New coach Juwan Howard hasn't missed a beat, and his team is playing lights out. All of that being said, it's important not to get ahead of ourselves. This team still has a ton of new pieces, as each of their three top scorers from a season ago left. They've been dominating this year by shooting an absurd 42.4 percent from three, which probably isn't a sustainable rate.
Isaiah Livers looks much-improved and like a potential leader of the team, but he isn't going to be able to shoot 51.2 percent from deep the entire season. This is also Michigan's first road game of the year, which could be when we start to see some issues arise from their dependence on relatively inexperienced players. They haven't always had the best chemistry at times and have been a bit sloppy with the ball, turning it over 14.1 times per game through their first seven contests. They've had turnover issues despite playing at an average pace, which isn't a good sign. They've rightfully gotten a lot of praise for their recent wins over top schools, but they didn't look great early on, only beating Appalachian State by eight at home in their opener for example.
Louisville Ranked #1Speaking of teams that have started hot, Louisville has also come out of the gates on fire. They rattled off 7 straight wins as well and recently moved into the top spot in the latest AP poll. They beat Miami on the road by 13 points in their opener, which set the tone for this season. Most recently they beat a very solid Western Kentucky team by 17 points on a neutral court, and they've already won four games by at least 23 points. Louisville always draws a raucous home crowd when they're playing well, and there should be an absolutely electric atmosphere for this key game now that the Cardinals are ranked number one. Louisville was a bit of a disappointment last year, losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Minnesota.
But they returned six of their top seven scorers from a season ago, and as such have a ton of experience. They are led by talented Junior Jordan Nwora who is averaging 22 points to go along with seven rebounds, and they are loaded with juniors and seniors. In addition to all of the returning players, they also added a couple of new pieces. They added grad transfer Lamarr Kimble from St Joseph's, who averaged 15.6 points per game last year and is now a key bench piece. They also added freshman Samuell Williamson, who was a top 20 recruit nationally this past year. This has the potential to be the best Louisville team we've seen in quite some time.
Trends, courtesy of Covers.com: Cardinals are:
- 10-4-1 ATS in their last 15 vs. Big Ten
- 15-5-2 ATS in their last 22 Tuesday games
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
I'm laying the points with Louisville here. Michigan has been a nice story but there's a reason they were unranked to start the year, and it's important not to overreact to what we've seen from a small sample size. They've been shooting at an unsustainable clip from three-point range, and now in their first road game of the season, I think we can expect them to decline a bit. They are mixing in a ton of new pieces, while Louisville returned almost everybody from last year in addition to adding some very talented new players. This should be a comfortable win for the Cardinals.
Prediction: Louisville -5.5
Full-Game Total Pick
The under also makes a lot of sense in this spot. Louisville has been playing lights out defensively, and Michigan's forte is always their defense as well. The Wolverines have looked very good offensively so far, but I think that could come to an end here in their first road game of the season as their inexperience will finally show itself. Louisville plays at an extremely slow pace, and since they are the home team and the better team they should be able to play their style. Not surprisingly, the under is 9-4 in the Cardinals' last 13 home games.