The third-ranked Michigan Wolverines are on a roll and garnering more attention as a national championship contender.
Fresh off a marquee win at No. 4 Ohio State last weekend, the Wolverines now turn their attention to another big game with No. 9 Iowa on Thursday evening.
Can Michigan continue to ride the wave and further extend its lead in the Big Ten Conference race?
Iowa vs. Michigan: Wolverines hold an edge
Michigan (16-1, 11-1 Big Ten) and Iowa (17-6, 11-5) will tip-off on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET from the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor. Fans and sports bettors can catch the game live on ESPN.
Oddsmakers are backing Michigan in this one, as they are listed as a 3.5-point favorite at home against the Hawkeyes at DraftKings Sportsbook. The over/under is currently listed at 156.5 points.
These two are meeting for the first time this season, but the home team has won the last five meetings in the series.
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Iowa Hawkeyes back on track
Iowa comes into Thursday’s game on a four-game win streak, with three of the wins by double figures. The Hawkeyes are 13-10 against the spread on the season and 12-11 with the over.
Iowa is two games behind Michigan in the Big Ten standings right now, so it needs this win for title hopes.
The strength of Iowa has been its offense, which averages 86.4 points per game. That ranks third nationally. The Hawkeyes are also third nationally in 3-point shooting, hitting 40.3% of their shots.
Leading Iowa has been Luka Garza, the 6’11” senior center. Garza averages 24.7 points and 8.5 rebounds per game this season. Garza is the runaway favorite to win the John R. Wooden Award for player of the year. BetMGM Sportsbook lists him at -1000 to win it.
Guard Joe Wieskamp is an impactful scorer as well, averaging 15.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
While Iowa is a tremendous offense, the Hawkeyes struggle defensively. Iowa is allowing 72.8 points per game, which ranks 243rd nationally.
Michigan Wolverines winning and covering
Along with the big 92-87 win at Ohio State last Sunday, Michigan picked up another cover at the betting window. The Wolverines are 13-4 against the spread, one of the best ATS records in the nation. They are 9-8 with the under.
Sunday’s game was one of the best games in the nation for the 2021 season. It was a back-and-forth offensive showcase.
Both teams shot over 50% for the contest and each also knocked down 11 3-pointers.
Hunter Dickinson continued his impressive freshman season with 22 points and nine rebounds. He was one of five double-figure scorers for Michigan in the win.
Dickinson is averaging 15 points and 7.8 rebounds per game this season. He physically should be able to match-up well with Garza.
Isaiah Livers and Franz Wagner are combining for 26.8 points, over 10 rebounds, and over 5 assists per game.
The Michigan offense averages 79.2 points per game this season while shooting 50.2% from the field and 38.7% from the arc.
Defensively, Michigan has much stronger numbers than Iowa. The Wolverines give up just 66.2 points per game while holding opponents to 38.5%t shooting.
Wolverines among top NCAA title contenders
Though Michigan was No. 3 coming into Sunday’s game with Ohio State, the victory opened up many eyes nationally. The Wolverines are only behind unbeaten Gonzaga (22-0) and Baylor (17-0) in the current national rankings.
Michigan also has the third-shortest odds to win the NCAA Tournament in 2021, according to the latest odds at Michigan online sportsbooks.
The Wolverines’ odds have shortened up quite a bit in recent weeks. They currently range from +450 to +700 to win it all. Just two weeks ago, Michigan was around +1200.
Their odds to reach the Final Four have also jumped up significantly. DraftKings lists them at an eye-popping -150 to make the semifinals.
While odds aren’t listed, Juwan Howard has to be among the top favorites to win Coach of the Year. The second-year coach has Michigan at 16-1 and on the verge of a conference title.
Coming into the season, Michigan was listed as high as +4000 to win the NCAA Tournament and +900 to reach the Final Four.
Michigan was a longshot in the Big Ten as well at +1100 to start the season but now is a +225 favorite.
So, can Michigan ride this wave into March Madness and a national title? We shall see. Iowa is next, and there’s still a long road ahead before March 18.