For the second straight season, the Michigan Wolverines and North Carolina Tar Heels will square off in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Last year, the Tar Heels cruised to an 86-71 win over the Wolverines in the Dean Dome in the competition, but Michigan wasn’t discouraged by the loss. In fact, they highlighted that defeat as a loss the team rallied around to eventually make it to the NCAA national championship.
There are no injuries to report for Michigan ahead of this game. The Wolverines have been able to stay healthy this year, and that’s always a good thing.
North Carolina has largely stayed healthy as well. There is just one injury concern ahead of this game, as Seventh Woods missed the last two games of the Las Vegas Invitational due to a concussion. He has been cleared to return to the team, and he should play in this one barring any setbacks.
Although Michigan lost by 15 in this game last year, the Wolverines are favored by three points per the college basketball betting odds here. Michigan is undefeated on the season, and its 27-point win over Villanova earlier on has given many reason to believe that the Wolverines are picking up right where they left off last season. The total is 146.5 points.
What’s at Stake?
This is the 20th season of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, and the ACC has dominated this series throughout its history. The ACC has a 12-5-2 record all-time, and they had their biggest victory over the Big Ten yet last year. ACC teams won 11 of the 14 meetings between the two conferences in this competition in 2017.
Currently, the ACC has a 5-3 lead in this year’s edition, but the games have been extraordinarily close. Six of the eight games were decided by four points or less, and of the six games on Tuesday night, only the tilt between Duke and Indiana wasn’t close.
North Carolina crushed overmatched opponents in each of its five games prior to the Las Vegas Invitational. In Las Vegas, UNC faced its first real tests and ended up losing a nail-biter against Texas before dismantling UCLA on Friday. Their next game won’t be until next week, as they are preparing for finals and the upcoming Christmas break.
Meanwhile, Michigan has destroyed every team placed in front of it. The defense has been phenomenal, and that has led to the Wolverines winning each game by at least 19 points despite some mediocre offensive numbers. Unlike UNC, the Wolverines will have two conference games shortly after this tilt, and Michigan will be tested by both Purdue and Northwestern.
According to Ken Pomeroy, Michigan has the best defense in the country. The Wolverines are giving up a scant 58 PPG, and their performance against normally efficient offenses like Villanova and Providence was very impressive. They have allowed opponents to hit just 32.9 percent of their field goals this season, and that’s better than anyone else in the nation by a decent amount. It’s also down nearly 10 percent from what they allowed in 2017-18.
Few teams are as solid on the boards as the Tar Heels. North Carolina is pulling down 45 rebounds per game, and Luke Maye has led the way. He is not averaging a double-double quite yet this season, but he is likely to be by the end of the year.
The Tar Heels are unlikely to be particularly efficient from the field against the Wolverines. Even though North Carolina is hitting over 50 percent of its field goals and is ranked No. 4 in offense by Pomeroy, they were somewhat held in check by Texas and Michigan has an even better defense.
For UNC to win, the Tar Heels need to take advantage of their size to control the glass. If they don’t have a double-digit rebounding edge, they are unlikely to get a victory.
Charles Matthews is able to get his own shot for the Wolverines and that will be important here, but the real X-factor is Ignas Brazdeikis. Brazdeikis has been a revelation as a freshman, and he has been very efficient. As long as Michigan doesn’t get dominated on the glass, he will lead the home team to the win.