So much for that layoff.
Michigan came back from a 23-day pause to return to its winning ways and regain some of the form that has made it a national contender. It started on Sunday when the Wolverines recorded a 67-59 victory at Wisconsin after trailing by 12 at halftime. Then, Michigan followed with a convincing 61-54 win at home against Rutgers on Wednesday.
Now comes the big one. The No. 3 Wolverines (15-1, 10-1 Big Ten) will travel to No. 4 Ohio State (18-4, 12-4) on Sunday for the first top-five basketball matchup between the two rivals in a game with NCAA seeding and Big Ten title implications.
CHECK OUT: Michigan reports $115.2 million in handle for online sports betting debut
In the latest bracket projections from ESPN, Michigan is the third No. 1 seed, while Ohio State is projected to earn the final top seed.
Michigan sportsbooks are also taking action on who will earn the No. 1 seeds. Michigan currently has the third-best odds for a top seed at -305 on DraftKings. Alabama and Ohio State are tied for the fourth-best odds at +100. Gonzaga and Baylor are considered foregone conclusions by oddsmakers for a No. 1 seed with both of their odds at -10000.
Michigan is still the Michigan sportsbook favorite to win the Big Ten at +250 with Ohio State second at +300.
Michigan Defense Leads Way
For as versatile and fun as Michigan’s offense can be when the team is rolling, it has been the group’s defense that’s led the way in its return. There have been moments the offense has struggled this week. Against Wisconsin, the halfcourt sets appeared disjointed as the team scored just 27 first-half points, marking the largest halftime deficit of the season. But Michigan managed to rally by limiting Wisconsin to 7 of 28 from the field in the second half while outscoring the Badgers 40-20. The Wolverines also held Wisconsin scoreless over the last 1:46.
Rutgers never managed to get into an offensive flow against Michigan, either. The Scarlet Knights made only 40% of their shots (25-62) and were just 3 of 12 from 3-point range. Similar to the Wisconsin win, Michigan needed its defense to carry it. The Wolverines went 5 ½ minutes without scoring in the second half and went over six minutes without a made field goal.
Up to this point this season, Michigan has the seventh-most efficient defense according to the latest KenPom rankings (89.3). Meanwhile, Ohio State has the third-best offense (124.1), trailing only Iowa and Gonzaga.
Ohio State’s elite offense has carried the Buckeyes to a 10-1 record in their last 11 games, which includes wins over No. 5 Illinois, No. 11 Iowa and No. 21 Wisconsin.
Michigan great ATS, Michigan State not so much
If it wasn’t for a meaningless late-game 3 from Rutgers, the Wolverines would have covered the -8.5 spread. But even with the bad beat, Michigan has been one of the most profitable teams for bettors to back. The Wolverines have the eighth-best percentage at covering the spread, going 12-4 this season.
As for the rival Michigan State Spartans, they’ve been atrocious straight up and against the spread. MSU is tied for the third-worst mark against the spread at 4-15. Of course, a Michigan fan who has a deep-seated hatred for MSU could have had quite a profitable year by backing the Wolverines and fading the Spartans at every opportunity.
Bettors in Michigan now have the opportunity to wager from their mobile devices thanks to the state's recent online sports betting and Michigan online casino launch, making it easier to wager on Michigan or MSU basketball.