Michigan has been riddled with injuries this season, losing Caris LeVert (left foot) and Derrick Walton (left toe/foot) for the season. Prior to undergoing surgery on January 21, LeVert led the Wolverines in scoring (14.9), rebounds (4.9), assists (3.7), steals (1.7) and minutes (35.8). In fact, at the time of injury, the 6-7 guard was one of just six players to lead their team in five of those categories, and the only one to do so from a Power 5 conference. The loss of Walton was also significant in that he was averaging 10.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, while leading the Wolverines with 78 trips to the foul line (83.3%; 93.5% in conference play).
Despite these injuries, Michigan has adopted a “Next Man Up” mantra that has relied upon several key players with limited collegiate experience. Freshman Aubrey Dawkins has been thrust into the starting lineup in each of the last six games where he has averaged 9.5 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. The 6-6 guard has scored in double figures in three of those six games, while shooting 54.1% from the field (20-for-37) and 47.8% from beyond the arc (11-for-23). Fellow freshman Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman has also stepped up over the last eight games, averaging 8.5 points on 47.5% shooting from the floor.
Over the last seven games, both Dawkins and Abdur-Rahkman have accounted for five double-figure scoring games and are combining for 17.8 points per game. Michigan’s offense is guided by point guard Spike Albrecht, who is averaging 7.5 points, 4.7 assists and 1.0 steals in eleven starts this season.
The 5-11 junior currently leads the Wolverines with a 2.6 assist-to-turnover ratio (87 assists to 33 turnovers), which is 27th in the nation and fourth in the Big Ten Conference. Michigan is averaging just 10.0 turnovers per game, putting the Wolverines 12th in the nation with taking care of the ball. I also like the fact that Michigan has four players shooting above 75% from the charity stripe, and is shooting 75.3% collectively this season.
Michigan possesses a very good defense that is allowing just 62.6 points per game to teams that would combine to average 70.3 points per game against a mediocre defensive squad. More importantly, the Wolverines are 10-5 at home this season where they are limiting opponents to a mere 60.4 points per game.
Overall, the Wolverines are 7.7 points per game better than average defensively, which is certainly good enough to slow down a decent Michigan State attack that is 7.0 points per game better than average (72.0 points per game against teams that would combine to allow 65.0 points per game). Michigan’s stifling defense also ranks sixth in the nation with only 14.4 fouls per game.
Another issue for the Spartans is the fact that they are shooting a woeful 62.2% from the free throw line this season, including just 61.2% in conference play and 58.1% over the last five games. From a technical standpoint, Michigan is 30-14 ATS as a home underdog of six points or less, 5-2 ATS in its last seven conference games and 4-1 ATS in its last five games after failing to cover the spread, whereas the Spartans are 2-6 ATS in their last eight road games versus teams with a home win percentage of .601 or greater, 1-6 ATS in their last seven games versus teams with a winning record and 1-5 ATS in their last six games off a win.
Michigan is also 59-10 at Crisler Center since January 27, 2011, including going 32-6 in conference play. Under head coach John Beilein, the Wolverines are 99-32 at home and own a 9-4 mark against AP Top 25 squads since 2011. Michigan also applies to a very good 51-9-1 ATS contrarian situation of mine that invests on certain home underdogs off three or more consecutive losses, provided they are matched up against an opponent off two or more consecutive SU and ATS wins. Better yet, if our ‘play against’ team is coming off a home win in its last game, the foregoing system zooms to a perfect 14-0 ATS.
The situational analysis also favors Michigan in that Spartans are coming off an emotional 59-56 win over Ohio State in a game that likely stamped Michigan State’s ticket to the NCAA Tournament. After storming the court and celebrating as if they had won the Super Bowl, the Spartans now have to pack their bags to face a pedestrian 13-12 opponent with a big revenge game looming on deck against Illinois (the Illini beat the Spartans 59-54 on February 7).
Meanwhile, Michigan takes the floor with legitimate revenge after suffering a 76-66 overtime loss to the Spartans at the Breslin Center two weeks ago. With Michigan standing at 60-28 in Ann Arbor in this series, including winning the last four games at home, grab the points in this Big Ten Conference battle and invest with confidence.