Michigan's return to the court figures to be a brutal reminder of just how tough the Big Ten is as the Wolverines are set to play their first game in over three weeks on the road against one of the league's preseason favorites on Sunday at Wisconsin. The Badgers have been alternating between wins and losses over the past few weeks while Michigan has been on pause, but the No. 21 Badgers enter the meeting as one of seven ranked Big Ten teams.
The No. 3 Wolverines won the first meeting 77-54 on Jan. 12 in what was a matchup of top-10 teams at the time. That 23-point defeat marked Wisconsin's lowest scoring output of the season and its largest margin of defeat, so motivation should be no issue for the Badgers as they seek revenge. The Badgers are also 11-2 at Kohl Center this season and should certainly have a conditioning advantage on Sunday as the Wolverines ramp back up. But Michigan remained a top-five team during its extended pause for a reason, and that reason is a 13-1 record that includes an 8-1 beginning to Big Ten play.
Gauging how ready the Wolverines will be to compete against a high-quality foe after their break is tough, but coach Juwan Howard has shown he can extract a lot from this Michigan roster. It sets up what should be an insightful second meeting between two teams with serious postseason aspirations.
- When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
- Where: Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin
- TV: CBS | Live stream: CBSSports.com, CBS Sports App (Free)
- OTT: CBS Sports App (Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast)
Michigan: Minnesota ended Michigan's undefeated start on Jan. 16, but the Wolverines won their next two games against league opponents by double-digits before the school's entire athletic department shut down after the discovery of a COVID-19 variant on campus. As a result, Michigan has not played since Jan. 22. But the Wolverines have plenty of time to get back up to speed before the postseason, and there is plenty of reason to believe this squad can regain the form it enjoyed before the shutdown. Though star freshman center Hunter Dickinson began dropping off a bit before the pause, he's an absolute force. So are senior forward Isaiah Livers and versatile sophomore Franz Wagner. Collectively, the trio present matchup problems with their length and physicality, while senior guards Mike Smith, Chaundee Brown and Eli Brown provide steady play out of the back court.
Wisconsin: Defense is this team's backbone, and no one has scored more than 74 opponents on the Badgers this season. Wisconsin has held 10 opponents below 60 points this season, including six Big Ten teams. The Badgers are 6-0 in those games, and they surely have visions of keeping the well-rested Wolverines below that benchmark. Offensively, the Badgers play at a slower pace than anyone in the Big Ten, and that results in a thin margin for error offensively. As such, the effectiveness of their 3-point shooting seems to have played an outsized role in recent weeks. Wisconsin shot 36.8% and hit at least nine 3-pointers in its last three victories but averaged just six 3-point makes and shot just 22.5% from beyond the arc in its last three losses.
Game prediction, pick
Don't expect too many points in a matchup of two defenses ranked in the top-10 nationally by KenPom. Wisconsin got embarrassed by Michigan in the first meeting. In addition to that added motivation, the Badgers should also bring better conditioning and general preparedness into this game because of Michigan's layoff. Prediction: Wisconsin 64, Michigan 58
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