6 Notre Dame vs. 11 Michigan
Time: 8:40 PM CT (CBS)
Spread: ND -3
Betting odds c/o Pincle
Notre Dame finished the season 21-11 with the fifth-best ACC mark. The Fighting Irish were routed 78-47 by North Carolina in the semifinals of the ACC tournament, but it will begin the task with a somewhat easier task facing the No. 11 seeded Michigan Wolverines. College basketball oddsmakers at Pincle favor the Fighting Irish by 3 points in the game which will air at 8:40 Central on CBS.
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Notre Dame is led by Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste. Jackson is a 6’1” junior point guard who led Notre Dame in scoring and assists with 15.5 points and 4.8 assists per game. He is a good shooter and hit 44.2 percent from the field and 32.4 percent from three on 4.8 triples attempted per game. Jackson has struggled badly in Notre Dame’s last four games though. Over that span he connected on just 13 of 48 from the field while going 5 of 21 from three. The Fighting Irish will need him to shoot the ball a lot better to prevail against the Wolverines in second round play tonight.
Auguste is a 6’10” senior forward who was good for a double-double per game this season with 14.4 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. He connected on 54.9 percent of his shots but he is just a 63 percent free throw shooter. Even so, he can be a total monster on the glass. He had 19 points and 22 rebounds in an 84-79 win over then-No. 19 Duke on Mar. 10, and he had double figure rebounds in all but nine games this year.
The Fighting Irish were just 4-5 in those games which Auguste failed to grab 10 rebounds or more. It could be said real simply that the two keys to the Irish prevailing are Jackson hitting his jumpshots and Auguste being a demon on the glass. That might not be much of an oversimplification.
The Michigan Wolverines finished the season 22-12 and had a weak showing in the Big Ten tournament when it lost 76-59 to Purdue in the tournament semis.
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Chris LeVert has been shut down for the season due to a leg injury that had been holding him out of action. Given that he is the team’s leading scorer and assist-maker, it is a big low to lose his services. Michigan will turn heavily to Derrick Walton, Jr to try to fill the void. Walton Jr. is No. 3 on Michigan in scoring but ranked No. 2 in assists behind only LeVert.
Walton Jr, a 6’1” junior guard, averaged 11.7 points, 4.3 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game in 33 minutes a night this season. He had 12 points on 4 of 10 shooting in the play-in game against Tulsa, and he has amassed 29 assists in the Wolverines’ last five games. He had two points and 12 assists in the 72-69 win over Indiana on Mar. 11, and Michigan would be happy to see him take such a role making plays with LeVert not there to command the typical defensive attention.
The Wolverines will also hope for more offense from Zak Irvin. Irvin is a 6’6” junior swingman who averaged 11.9 points per game this year, but he played a bigger role last year in his sophomore season when he was good for 14.3 points per game. Irvin is a shooter, but he dialed back his three point attempts this season while hitting just 30.9 percent on 4.5 tries per game. He had 16 points on 6 of 12 shooting in the win over Tulsa, but he is going to have to be bigger still to prevail against Notre Dame tonight.
Irvin had 19 points and eight rebounds in the 72-70 OT win over Northwestern on Mar. 10 and Michigan will need a similar effort to prevail in this one. With LeVert out, the Wolverines are facing a major handicap, but the team does have the talent to at least get out of the second round even if Notre Dame is favored in this one.