Michigan vs. UNLV Prediction: Wolverines Need To Bounce Back From First Loss
Date: Saturday, November 20, 2021
Game Time: 12:30 a.m. ET
Where To Watch: ESPN2
Michigan vs. UNLV Prediction
The No. 4 Michigan Wolverines are coming off a surprising home loss to Seton Hall on Tuesday as part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games and look to get back to their winning ways tonight. They face the UNLV Rebels in Las Vegas as part of the Roman Main Event. Will the Wolverines prevail against a Rebels team that struggles to score, or will UNLV’s stingy defense be a key in another upset of Michigan?
Michigan had started the season with two straight ATS covers at home before losing to the Pirates as eight-point favorites. The win was massive for Seton Hall, who had not beaten a top-five team since 2000. The loss especially hurts for Michigan, considering they squandered an 11-point second half lead. They were undone by shooting 20% from 3-point range (3-for-15) and a 42% overall field goal percentage.
Though UNLV comes into this game 3-0, it has not been the product of aesthetically pleasing play. The Rebels have beaten Gardner-Webb, California, and North Dakota State by a combined 11 points. They have averaged 61 points per game in the three home games and are the Mountain West Conference’s best defensive team thus far, allowing opponents to shoot just 37.1% from the field. UNLV has been a bettor’s delight with three straight non-covers and three straight unders.
The biggest question when handicapping this game is trying to figure out if UNLV’s defense is legit or if their gaudy statistics result from inferior competition. Royce Hamm Jr. has been an outstanding rim protector, and head coach Kevin Kruger has turned leading scorer Bryce Hamilton into a much better on-ball defender.
UNLV is holding teams to just 25.8% shooting from 3-point range, which on paper would mean that they would have an advantage over a Michigan team that is knocking down just 32.2% of their long-range shots. However, the Wolverines are the only team in the country that ranks in the top six in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency (per KenPom), which suggests they have a much higher ceiling than what they showed against Seton Hall.
Eli Brooks is the only Michigan guard shooting better than 41% from the field with a minimum of 22 shot attempts, and the Rebels would be wise not to help as much off him when the Wolverines throw the ball in the post to Hunter Dickinson. The 7’1” Dickinson is likely to increase his 18.7 PPG scoring average, as Hamm is the only key contributor for UNLV that is 6’9” or taller.
With how much defensive attention will be paid to Dickinson in this game, Michigan’s guards and wings will need to knock down outside shots. What would worry me most if I was a UNLV backer is how they respond if they get down eight or ten points, given they have not been in that position all year. And with another game on tap on Sunday against either Wichita State or Arizona, Michigan will be looking to get the bad taste of the Seton Hall loss out of their mouths and sharpen their play to have a successful two-game stay in Las Vegas.
Michigan vs. UNLV Pick
- PICK: Michigan -13.5 @ -110