(11) Michigan Wolverines vs (6) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-3, 143 o/u)
The Michigan Wolverines (23-12 SU, 17-16 ATS) needed to survive the first-four to get to the real dance. But survive they did, and now the Wolverines will clash with another storied school when they face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (21-11, 14-15-1 ATS) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn tonight (8:40 PM Eastern).
Michigan advanced to the real first round by beating Tulsa, 67-62, covering as two-point favorites. Guards Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Zak Irvin had 16 points each for the Wolverines, while Duncan Robinson added 13.
The Wolverines weren’t great against top-tier opposition this season, going 2-8 against ranked teams. But they were able to beat no. 10 Indiana – the Big Ten regular season champs – in the conference tournament before falling to Purdue.
Notre Dame was equally bad against top-25 teams, with a 2-9 record. They also picked up a nice win in their conference tournament, though, upsetting no. 19 Duke. But they fell to eventual ACC champs UNC next time out and enter March Madness having lost three of their last five, overall.
Last season, the Irish made it to the regional final, where they lost a heartbreaker to Kentucky. It was Notre Dame’s best result ever in the NCAA tournament. But this year’s squad looks markedly different, having lost seniors Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton.
Point guard Demetrius Jackson leads the team in scoring, averaging 15.5. Irvin is the high man for Michigan at just 11.7 PPG.
There’s not a lot to separate the teams in terms of ATS records. Both were around .500 on the season. But the Irish have tended to respond after a setback, going 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven following a straight up loss. Michigan was lucky to make the field and their luck is going to run out tonight. (Too bad they don’t have a little more Irish in them!)
Pick: Notre Dame (-3).
(Photo credit: flickr user rrescot (http://www.flickr.com/photos/rrescot/4201320588/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)