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It’s a 2/15 matchup on the first day of the NCAA Tournament as the Montana Grizzlies are looking to stun the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan is coming off a tough loss in the Big Ten title game, while Montana managed to emerge victorious from the Big Sky conference tourney. Oddsmakers have the Wolverines as 15.5 point favorites here for this one as they look to make it back to the national title game. It’ll be televised on TNT.
Montana is back in the NCAA Tournament. The Grizzlies made it to March Madness for the second straight year after knocking off Eastern Washington in the Big Sky title game. But while the end result was the same, this year’s Montana team is a lot worse.
HUGE INJURY UPDATE for Montana here, as it appears they’ll be without leading scorer and rebounder Jamar Akoh. Akoh is being listed as doubtful for the game, and it’s a massive blow to their chances of pulling off the upset.
Last year they finished 72nd on Kenpom. They enter this one at 137th. Last year they were a 14 seed and a trendy pick to pull off a first-round upset over this same Michigan team. This year they’re massive underdogs and a 15 seed. What’s funny is that this Montana team gave Michigan a pretty good game last year in the first round, and will be getting another crack at it here. They lost by 14 last year, and I don’t expect it to be that close this time around. Montana didn’t even dominate their weak conference, and they have some really bad losses on their resume, like a 12 point loss to Portland State.
Montana’s coach Travis DeCuire said he was surprised to be facing Michigan again:
“I’m shocked a little bit that they would match the same two teams,” DeCuire told reporters. “Typically, they’d change it. But it is what it is. I think there’s a lot for us to look forward to. Our guys will be excited for the rematch.”
This Montana team’s ‘strength’ is their offense, but that won’t work very well here against a Michigan defense that is arguably the best in the country. Montana won’t be able to get much going offensively, and their 161st ranked defense won’t be able to stop the Wolverines. The Grizzlies are 1-6 against the spread in their last seven non-conference games, and don’t ever fare well outside the comfort of Big Sky action. This will get ugly.
Michigan Comes Up Just Short
Michigan is coming off a near perfect season. They had a magical NCAA Tournament run last year that came up just short. They made it all the way to the national title game, but they ended up getting beat by 17 points by Villanova once they got there.
They were out to win the whole thing this year, and got things started the right way with an early blowout revenge victory over Villanova. They looked dominant early on in the season, and went 13-0 in non-conference play. They suffered a tough loss in the Big Ten title game this past weekend when they fell to Michigan State. Michigan does have three recent losses, but all three games were to MSU, and they clearly just have difficulty beating the Spartans. That won’t effect them here, and I expect them to come out firing on all cylinders. Michigan has been here plenty of times before, and knows what it takes to win in March.
Jordan Poole and Isaiah Livers talking about who’s the better shooter 😂😂
— Wolverine Corner (@WolverineCorner) March 16, 2019
They’re elite on both sides of the ball, and can very easily win this one by 20+. Jordan Poole has taken a big step forward in his sophomore season, and he already had plenty of big moments in their NCAA Tournament run last year. Michigan is well-coached by John Beilein, so you don’t have to worry about them being not prepared or overlooking a lesser opponent. They’ll be ready to roll, and should win big here.
Even though Beilein’s team is a big favorite, he isn’t taking Montana lightly:
“They’ve added two Pac-12 transfers that are really elite shooters,” Beilein said. “We played them last year, and they weren’t really the 3-point threat they are right now. They were good. Now they’re great. They had an injury to one of their big guys. Now they spread us out with five shooters on the floor at one time. That’s hard to defend,” he explained.
Michigan is already an elite defensive team, and their job just got a lot easier with the word of Akoh’s injury. Without Akoh, Montana won’t be able to get anything going offensively, and Michigan should be able to breeze through this game. The injury also gives the under some extra value, as both teams could start slow.
- 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games following a ATS loss
- 14-3 ATS in their last 17 games following a straight up loss
- 24-10-1 ATS in their last 35 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600
- 40-19-4 ATS in their last 63 neutral site games
- 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games following a ATS win
- 1-4 ATS in their last 5 NCAA Tournament games
- 1-6 ATS in their last 7 non-conference games
- 0-4 ATS in their last 4 vs. Big Ten
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
I love the Wolverines here. They have plenty of NCAA Tournament experience, and know enough not to take Montana lightly here. They already played this Montana team last NCAA Tournament, so they know they’re capable of putting up a fight. Michigan will bring their A-game, and end up winning by 20+.
Prediction: Michigan -15.5
Full-Game Total Pick
I also like the under a lot here. Michigan has a top 5 defense nationally and isn’t going to give up any easy buckets, that much isn’t debatable. But their offense has quietly dipped a bit, and the under is 12-5 in their last 17 non-conference games. Michigan will be feeling them out early on, and this one should be pretty low scoring.