Northwestern Falters Again on the Road, This Time in Ann Arbor

Doug Upstone

Monday, January 29, 2018 4:38 PM UTC

Monday, Jan. 29, 2018 4:38 PM UTC

Is Northwestern finally playing up to preseason expectations? Most preseason publications had the Wildcats in their Top 5 in the Big Ten, but they have not come close to that level of performance as they visit Michigan on Monday.

Northwestern Wildcats at Michigan WolverinesFree NCAAB Pick: MichiganBest Line Offered: Heritage

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Presently, Northwestern is in 8th place in the Big Ten and that is off two victories, one over Penn State and the other against Minnesota. The Wildcats are in the midst of a three-game road trip and at 13-9 (8-11 ATS) in an off year in the Big Ten, they need a run to even get on the March Madness tournament bubble.

Next up for the 'Cats is a treacherous trip to Michigan, which is a very dangerous opponent with outstanding offensive diversity. The college basketball odds had the Wolverines as an 8-point home favorite with total of 132. Can Northwestern keep winning or are will it be routed by the Wolverines?

Northwestern Healthy Again, Yet Still Needs to Play Better Defense

After finally making it to NCAA tourney last year and with almost every important player back, Coach Chris Collins' squad was thought to be Top 25 material. However, injuries, inconsistency and possibly expectations have held Northwestern back. There are signs the Wildcats might be ready to play as expected, yet two aspects have to be resolved.

Leading scorers Scott Lindsey (14 PPG) and Bryant McIntosh (13 PPG) are both shooting under 40 percent on the season. This has kept the offense from reaching its potential. Particularly in away games, this has really hurt Northwestern, which is averaging a mere 64.1 PPG and shooting 40.8 percent. Toss in lack of toughness on the defensive end, where opponents are making 48.7 percent, and no wonder the 'Cats are 3-6 SU and ATS on the road.

Michigan Not In Best Role Tonight

The Wolverines are 17-6 (13-9 ATS) and 6-4 in the Big Ten, and three of those defeats have come to Top 15 teams Purdue (twice) and Ohio State. Offensively, this is typical John Beilein team: It has great offensive spacing and makes nine 3-pointers a contest. The Wolverines also have players who can take it to the rim in Charles Matthews (14.4 ppg), Mo Wagner (14.3) and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (11.1). While not a true running team, Michigan picks its spots to fast break.

The Wolverines are unbeaten at home as favorites at 10-0, yet are only 5-5 ATS. When making college basketball picks, Michigan seems better suited as an underdog and is 4-2 ATS.

Monday's Big Ten Winner

With FOX having the majority of the Big Ten package, this contest will be on Fox Sports 1 at 7 p.m. ET. Though Northwestern is improving, I am not sold on this team yet, especially on the road. Michigan comes into this clash with 6-0 ATS mark vs. teams making eight or more 3-pointers a game on the season, and I will forecast the Wolverines win by double digits.

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