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12/21 Big Ten Preview: Michigan set for Showdown with North Carolina

Here is a preview of Wednesday’s action.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Minnesota Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Game of the Day:

-Michigan Wolverines vs. North Carolina Tar Heels

  • Time/TV: 7:00PM ET (ESPN)
  • Line: North Carolina -4.5

Coming into the season, this had the potential to be a Top 10 showdown. Even with both teams on the outside looking into the AP Poll, it is still a must-see game between two historic programs.

North Carolina came into the season ranked No. 1 in the nation but is off to a roller coaster start. After beginning the year with five victories, the Tar Heels dropped four in a row and out of the rankings. North Carolina has now won three in a row, including an overtime victory against Ohio State. As for Michigan, it is on a mini two-game winning streak of its own.

Both sides will come in with strong guard play but the matchup down low is one to watch. Armando Bacot is averaging 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per contest. He is a force down low and one of the best bigs in the nation. Bacot will be tested with another experienced big in Hunter Dickinson. The junior’s numbers are strong once again, averaging 19.1 points and 8.4 rebounds. Both big men are shooting over 55% from the floor.

Caleb Love leads the Tar Heels scoring 18.4 points per game. He burst onto the scene last year and his decision to return to school has him up there with any guard in the nation. Who will match Love? Freshman Jett Howard and his 15.5 per game while shooting 40% from three-point range.

The exciting aspect of this game is that both sides can win this game in many ways. They have the guard play to go up and down the floor or the post presence to operate in the half court. This game will come down to who can make the final play of the night — whether it be offensive or defensive.

Pick: North Carolina

The Rest:

-New Orleans Privateers at No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers

  • Time/TV: 9:00PM ET (ESPNU)
  • Line: Purdue -32.5

Zach Edey is having a year that will have him fighting for the Naismith Player of the Year award. The 7-foot-4 presence is averaging 22.6 points and 13.9 rebounds per game. In a game like this, New Orleans will not have an option to slow down the big man. Purdue is at the top of the nation once again and has two walks in the park left before Big Ten play begins. Expect the Boilers to roll and roll early.

Pick: Purdue

-Oakland Grizzlies at Michigan State Spartans

  • Time/TV: 12:00PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Michigan State -20

Oakland will enter this contest with a record of 2-10 and on a seven-game losing streak. Michigan State will not only look to defend home court but defend it in a big way. The Spartans have four players averaging 12 or more points per night. Tyson Walker leads the way at 14 points while Joey Hauser is right behind him with 13.9. The overall depth, experience, and home-court advantage will lead the Spartans to a double-digit victory.

Pick: Michigan State

-Eastern Illinois Panthers at Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Time/TV: 3:30PM ET
  • KenPom Spread: Iowa -30

The lopsided nature of the action on Wednesday continues as Eastern Illinois travels to take on Iowa. Kris Murray is as good as there is in the Big Ten but he has missed time this season. Patrick McCaffery has taken the next step on both ends this season. The jury is still out on Iowa and their potential in the Big Ten but in this one, expect the Hawkeyes to get comfortable early.

Pick: Iowa

-Maine Black Bears at Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Time/TV: 8:30PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Ohio State -23.5

Ohio State has three losses this season — North Carolina, Duke, San Diego State. That is not a bad resume to this point. The Buckeyes were bested in overtime by the Tar Heels but return home with vengeance on their mind. Ohio State is looking to gain some momentum heading into Big Ten play.

Pick: Ohio State

Picks Record: 7-1