Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 10:00 AM EST. Odds subject to change.
Crisler Center - Ann Arbor, MI
Streaming: B1G Network
UNC Asheville +10½ over Michigan
8:30 PM EST. The champions of the Big South are coming to Ann Arbor loaded with much of the roster that won that conference and played in the NCAA Tournament (a first-round loss to UCLA). The biggest name back is Drew Pember, who led the Bulldogs with 21 points per game last season. Pember's claim to fame in 2022-23 was that he took more free throws than anyone in the nation (326), and he made more free throws, too (273), shooting 83.7%. Also returning is Nick McMullen, who averaged 8.1 points and 5.8 rebounds a game last season.
The Wolverines are pegged to struggle in the Big Ten this season, as prognostications have Michigan finishing 11th out of the 14 teams now in the conference. Last season, the Wolverines were just 18-16 (11-9 in the Big Ten) and missed The Dance for the first time since 2015. They then bowed out of the NIT in the second round to put the exclamation point on that disappointing season.
The Wolverines had a turbulent offseason that saw a total shakeup to their roster with top scorer and rebounder Hunter Dickinson leaving for the greener pastures of Kansas. Dickinson led Michigan in both of those important categories the last two seasons, so his loss will not be easy to replace. Furthermore, the Wolverines also lost guards Jett Howard and Kobe Bufkin to the NBA. Jace Howard, brother of Jett and son of coach Juwan Howard, is injured with a stress fracture in his right knee and tibia, and he will miss 4-6 weeks.
To replace the scoring lost, the Wolverines brought in Olivier Nkamhoua from Tennessee. With the Vols last season, Nkamhoua averaged 10.8 points a game while shooting 51.3% from the floor. Michigan also added Nimari Burnett, who is a transfer from Alabama, and Tray Jackson, who is a local Detroit native who transferred to Seton Hall. The Maize and Blue have restocked their cupboards, but the Wolverines have failed to adequately replace the talent and scoring that left in the offseason.
We'd be remiss if we didn't mention that the Wolverines also have just one healthy point guard on their roster in Dug McDaniel. True freshman George Washington III is expected to play with McDaniel, but he is a combo guard, and he is going to need time to adjust to the game at this level. With so many new faces, it's not unreasonable to expect the Wolverines to have some growing pains this season, especially early, which is why taking back the double-digit points on offer here with a well-oiled machine like UNC Asheville is the prudent play.
UNC Asheville +10½ -108 (Risking 2.16 units - To Win: 2.00)