As a conference, the Big Ten has played better than expected so far in the NCAA Tournament. They already have two schools going to the Sweet Sixteen and two more could join by Sunday night.
Purdue narrowly escaped Iowa State to earn their way in, while Wisconsin beat No. 1 seed Villanova to punch their ticket. Now it’s up to Michigan’s pair of conference schools to increase the Big Ten’s footprint.
Below you can preview both Michigan and Michigan State’s Round of 32 game. Betting odds are courtesy of KenPom.
Game of the Day:
-#7 Michigan Wolverines vs. #2 Louisville Cardinals
- Time/TV: 12:10PM ET — CBS
- KenPom Spread: Louisville (-2)
These two teams will forever be linked in history, as they played one of the best championship games of the decade. Ironically, the star of that game (Spike Albrecht) is also playing in the NCAA Tournament, albeit on a different team (Purdue).
Michigan is currently playing their best basketball, having won 6 of their last 7 games. During that stretch, they won the Big Ten Tournament, one day after their plane skid off the runway during takeoff. Such an event could have broken a team, but not Michigan. Now, it seems like they’re playing with better chemistry and are closer as a group.
On the other hand, Louisville hasn’t been playing quite as well as Michigan. They’ve only gone 3-3 over their last six games, including a first-round exit from the ACC Tournament.
Despite their losses, the Cards’ are one of the best two-way teams in the country. According to KenPom, they are ranked in the Top-25 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, coming in at No. 24 and No. 7, respectively.
With that said, the Cardinals do have the best coach in college basketball on their sideline, Rick Pitino. He is a big-game coach and should have a few tricks up his sleeve on Sunday afternoon. Plus, you’ve got to think that Michigan’s luck is going to run out soon.
- Pick Against The Spread: Louisville
-#9 Michigan State Spartans vs. #1 Kansas Jayhawks
- Time/TV: 5:15 PM ET — CBS
- KenPom Spread: Kansas (-8)
Like the Louisville and Michigan game, this matchup will feature two of the premier college basketball programs in the nation. With that, we will also be blessed with seeing two of the best coaches go nose-to-nose during the game: Bill Self and Tom Izzo.
The Spartans are fresh off a surprising 20-point win over the No. 8 seeded Miami Hurricanes. In the game, all of the Spartans freshmen standouts did just that, stand out. Nick Ward — who was left off the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team — led the Spartans with 19 points, while Freshman of the Year Miles Bridges chipped in 18 of his own. In addition, first-year point guard Cassius Winston dished out a team-high 5 assists.
Izzo and company will face a very tall task against Kansas, as the Jayhawks are one of the best offensive teams in the nation. In 33 games, Kansas has a team-scoring average of 83.2 points per game, ranking No. 15 in the nation.
With the Spartans coming in as big underdogs, they definitely look like the better side. They’ll be getting eight points to work with and coming off a big win, you can expect them to keep things close. Adding to their value, is the fact that Kansas has struggled mightily against the Big Ten. In their last 22 games, the Jayhawks are a poultry 6-16 ATS versus the conference.
Both of these games are must-watch television, and if things go as planned, the Big Ten will send four teams into the Sweet Sixteen.
- Pick Against The Spread: Michigan State
Casey’s Record vs The Spread: 46-26-2