The Battle 4 Atlantis begins Wednesday and the 18th ranked Connecticut Huskies could see that ranking jeopardized by a tough matchup with the Michigan Wolverines in the nightcap.
The Battle 4 Atlantis begins on Wednesday and there is potential for an upset in the fourth and final game of the opening round when the Michigan Wolverines (2-1, 1-1 ATS) take on the 18th ranked Connecticut Huskies (3-0, 1-0 ATS) at Imperial Arena in at Atlantis Resort in Paradise Island, Bahamas at 9:30 ET in a game available on AXS.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Michigan as a moderate underdog for this contest with the current line at +4½ with odds of -110.
18th on AP Poll but Untested So Far
Connecticut is ranked 18th on the latest AP Poll, but that rating has more to do with high preseason expectations than with three blowout wins in the first three game over outclassed opponents in Maine, New Hampshire and Furman. Connecticut brought in a nice recruiting class following a 20-15 season where the Huskies very nearly stole an NCAA Tournament big before losing to SMU in the AAC Championship Game.
We will know more about where Connecticut stands after this game, but for now we would be very reluctant to give points with this team until it beats a quality opponent.
Michigan also comes off of a disappointing season where it finished a mere 16-16 and failed to go to a post-season tournament. Remember that team had key injuries though and this season started a nice 2-0 before the Wolverines failed their first big test, being the losing NCAA Basketball picks at home to 23rd ranked Xavier 86-70 in their last game on Friday. Was looking ahead to this trip to the Bahamas at least partly to blame for that double-digit home loss?
At Least Michigan Lost to Quality Foe
Regardless of that result, at least Michigan has now faced one more quality opponent than Connecticut has and probable NBA Draft Lottery pick Caris LeVert continued his comeback after being limited to 18 games last season due to a fractured foot, as he had 29 points in the losing effort and is averaging 19.3 points and 5.0 assists through the early going while shooting 50.0 percent (7-for-14) from beyond the three-point arc.
A now-healthy LeVert and good three-point shooting overall with Michigan currently eighth in the country in three-point shooting at a scintillating 46.0 percent sounds like a perfect recipe for knocking off a Top 20 team that is probably a bit overrated right now. In fact, Michigan is 12th in the country in offensive efficiency and 29th in effective field goal percentage at 56.7 percent.
Not Much Defensive Pressure
Granted, Connecticut is allowing only 60.0 points per game on 33.5 percent shooting, but again the creampuff schedule needs to be taken into account, which is also true for an offense averaging a hefty 89.3 points on 51.0 percent shooting. Considering their weak schedule where great raw numbers across the board should be expected, one negative that sticks out to us is their low 286th ranked defensive turnover percentage of 15.6 percent vs. a national average of 18.4.
The Huskies had no problems getting away with not forcing turnovers vs. three opponents ranked 147th or worse on the Pomeroy Ratings, but Pomeroy has Michigan at 36th and the Wolverines have the potent offense as mentioned to take advantage of that lack of pressure and the three-point shooters to shoot right over the Connecticut defense ranked 111th defending three-pointers.
That means that the Huskies may have to continue their torrid offensive pace so far not only to cover these 4½ points but even to win this game outright, and we are not convinced the offense is quite as good as it has looked after losing their leading scorer from last season in Ryan Boatright, who is now in the NBA Development League.
Wolverines Usually Bounce Back Well
Finally, while the 16-point loss to Xavier by Michigan in Ann Arbor may be disconcerting, the Wolverines have bounced well from such disappointments in the past going 12-3 ATS in their last 15 games following a double-digit home loss.
It could very well be that Michigan was already looking ahead to its trip to the Bahamas last game, which would not be unheard of for college kids, so look for a more concerted effort resulting in a cover and a possible upset vs. 18th ranked Connecticut in Atlantis on Wednesday.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Michigan +4½ (-110)