Free Arizona vs. Michigan NCAA Basketball Picks

Willie Bee

Friday, December 13, 2013 1:17 PM GMT

Friday, Dec. 13, 2013 1:17 PM GMT

Sean Miller and the Arizona Wildcats passed their first test as the nation's top-ranked team with flying colors. Their second challenge in that role is going to be a tougher. A lot tougher.

Arizona hits the road for just the second time this season in a hostile environment with a trek into Ann Arbor on Saturday to meet the Michigan Wolverines. Tip is set for a few minutes past 12 PM (ET) when CBS begins its television coverage. 

Neither a spread nor a total has been released for the Pac-12, Big Ten clash, but you can bet that SBR's live college basketball odds will post the numbers just as soon as they come out.

This is the ninth time the schools have met on the hardwood, and first in more than nine years. The series actually dates to 1957 with five of the previous eight Wildcat-Wolverine matches taking place from 1993-94, none of them in Ann Arbor as UA prepares for its first action in Crisler Center. Arizona has the 6-2 advantage in prior battles, just nipping Michigan 61-60 in overtime at Madison Square Garden in the semifinals of the Preseason NIT. 

No Let-Up In 'Cats After Earning No. 1 Status

There was talk that Arizona (10-0 straight up, 7-3 against the spread) might be due for a letdown earlier this week against New Mexico State just after being lofted to the top of the two conventional polls, but that certainly wasn't the case in a 74-48 romp as 14.5 chalk. If anything, the letdown came last Saturday against UNLV, a game the Runnin' Rebels kept close before losing 63-58 as 16.5 point 'dogs.

Miller has a very defensive and glass-minded squad to work with this season, with the potential to be flashier on offense perhaps. Nick Johnson leads of a trio of double-digit scorers with 15.7 PPG, but more important on offense than the team's 77.4 scoreboard average is the fact the top 7 in the rotation are connecting on more than 51% of their attempts. 

It's the perimeter defense and rebounding that really sets this team apart. Arizona is allowing only 58 points per game, sixth-fewest, and eighth in opponents shooting percentage (36.4%). Out beyond the arc, opponents are sinking just over 27%. If you saw the game against Duke, you watched the Wildcats do a good job not giving the Blue Devils good looks from long-range, limiting them to just four successes in 14 tries for a team that connects on over 42% (18th in the country). 

Perhaps the most impressive stat is Arizona's rebounding. The 'Cats are averaging 41.5 boards a game, good enough for 23rd in the country, but the really notable numbers are outrebounding all 10 of their opponents so far and doing so by more than 14 a contest. 

Wolverines Look To Make Statement, Stop Slide

This was a top 10 matchup according to the preseason polls, but John Beilein's lads have stumbled a bit out of the gate with a couple of road losses in tough venues as well as an upset defeat to Charlotte in the finals for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off just before Thanksgiving. The Wolverines (6-3 SU, 3-4 ATS) came into the campaign No. 7 in the AP Poll, but have slid out of that group and are just hanging on to the No. 25 slot on the coaches' list. 

This is still a very dangerous team, and the atmosphere in Ann Arbor should be electric on Saturday. Now, if Beilein can just find some consistent shooting among his rotation, the stage is set for a No. 1 to get knocked off. 

One of the best ways to open up some of the outside shooting will be for Michigan's frontcourt trio of Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and Jon Horford to get physical inside and deny the 'Cats on the glass. And if Arizona's perimeter defense harasses Nik Stauskas and fellow guards Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. too much, that trio is going to have to find lanes to drive inside.

Arizona arrives at Crisler Arena one of only 11 unbeaten teams remaining in the standings, and I believe the Wildcats will leave with a blemish in the loss column. Until the line comes out, my NCAA Basketball picks is Michigan pulling off the outright win. 

My pick: No Line, Lean Michigan Straight Up
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