Defense to Dominate In Michigan-Montana West Region Opener

Jay Pryce

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 1:21 PM UTC

Tuesday, Mar. 13, 2018 1:21 PM UTC

The Big Sky and Big Ten tournament champions clash in the first round of the West Region as 14th-seeded Montana takes on 3-seed Michigan as 12-point underdogs Thursday night (9:50 ET). In a matchup where defense will dominate, a pick on the total presents value.

Montana vs. MichiganFree NCAAB Pick: Under 135Best Line Offered: BetOnline

[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":3422140, "sportsbooksIds":[1096,238,169,999996,19], "LineTypeId":3, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]

Montana (26-7 SU, 19-11 ATS) is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013, its 10th trip to the Big Dance. The program is 2-8 SU in prior opening rounds. The Grizzlies earned an invite by winning the Big Sky regular-season and conference titles. This is their first-ever matchup with Michigan in basketball.

[/]{"component": "embedHTML", "code": "

Mondays aren't so bad when you remember that you're dancing! #MarchMadness

— Montana Griz BB (@MontanaGrizBB) March 12, 2018

All-conference guards Ahmaad Rorie (17.2 ppg) — an Oregon transfer and former four-star recruit — and Michael Oguine (15.8 ppg) lead the Grizz in scoring, assists, and steals. The two excel off the dribble, penetrating the paint relentlessly. The offense takes just 27.2 percent of its shots from behind the arc, 13th-fewest in the country. Most attempts occur in high-efficiency areas near the rim (43.3 percent). The unit ranks 82nd in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency ratings nationally.

The defense is stout and consistent, focusing primarily on rim protection. It allowed a 41.5-percent opponent field-goal rate and 68.4 points per game in conference play.

The Grizz are just 3-22 SU (12-12-1 ATS) as underdogs in non-conference games behind fourth-year head coach Travis DeCuire all-time. It won one of five in this spot this season, beating Pitt (83-78) in the second game of the year before the Panthers proved how poor they were. Generating points is an issue under these conditions. Montana averages 65.6 points per game on 40.4-percent shooting.

Michigan (28-7 SU, 22-11 ATS), a double-digit favorite on the college basketball odds board, is rolling at the right time. Winners of eight straight, it captured its second Big Ten Tournament title in a row with a 75-66 win over Purdue. The team's 28 victories are the second-most ever for a John Beilein-coached squad.

About halfway through the conference schedule, the Wolverines' 3-point defense started to click. Improvement defending the area helped turn the unit into one of the nation’s elite, ranking fourth in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency entering the tourney. Through the first 10 B1G contests, Michigan allowed 68.3 points per game on 47.6-percent shooting. Opponents drained 39.6 percent of treys. Since, it is yielding 62.8 points per contest, on 41.1 percent from the floor, holding foes to 30.3 percent from behind the arc.

Since 2012, the Wolverines are 20-1 SU and 15-5-1 ATS as favorites on a neutral court. Tipping off -7.2 chalk, they are covering the line by 6.6 points per game.

Michigan is one of the hottest teams in the nation, and many are picking the program to challenge for a spot in the Final Four. History suggests the Grizz will struggle to put up points. In addition to the non-conference angle mentioned above, they have tipped off three times against programs with a sub-100 RPI this year. Their team total in each: 57, 54, and 63 points. Montana, however, held opponents (Penn State, Stanford, and Washington) to 70 or less in each. The Wolverines, 12th in RPI, play at the slowest pace of the four (333rd in tempo nationally) and will likely not exceed the mark. For your best bet, take "under" 135 with your NCAAB picks.

Check out SBR’s college basketball odds page for updated lines. Also, head over to the March Madness Betting Headquarters for vital handicapping information, picks, and a list of the best sports books and live betting options for the tournament season.

comment here