Wolverines face stiff test despite wide spread

Chances of Buffalo vs. Michigan

Both Buffalo and Michigan are the favorites for preseason betting to win their respective conferences, and both should be very optimistic for the season ahead.

Returning four starters, the Bulls are clearly the best team in the MAC, on either side of the floor. Michigan lost a few key players from last year’s roster, but it secured a star transfer at point guard and the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class.

But predictably, the Wolverines put 15.5 points in this non-conference matchup. Buffalo is the top team in the MAC and KenPom’s 94th best preseason team, but Michigan is in the top 10 and is KenPom’s second best team.

Buffalo, however, can definitely stay within this number.

There are only two players from last year’s All-MAC first and second team to return for the upcoming season. Both play for Buffalo.

Josh Mballa and Jeenathan Williams combined for more than 22 points per game last season, and they are joined by other returning starters Ronaldo Segu and LaQuill Hardnett.

So, if you do the math, that means four of the five Buffalo starters will return — no less the season after the Bulls hit the MAC Tournament Championship game.

The Bulls have versatility out of the wazoo. But as Stuckey put it in his MAC preview, Buffalo is characterized by four primary traits:

  • Dominate the glass
  • Go outside in the transition
  • Attack the edge
  • Relentless Defensive Length

Last season, the Bulls were among the top 25 Division I teams in defensive effective FG%, defensive 3P% and offensive rebound percentage. They also run at the 16th fastest pace.

The Bulls have all the parts to repeat that success and more. The Bulls were able to land two Atlantic-10 transfers in George Washington’s Maceo Jack and Fordham’s Ty Perry.

Buffalo is easily the best team in the MAC.

The Wolverines are set to win the Big Ten again this season, but their cap will depend on Coastal Carolina transfer DeVante’ Jones’ transition.

Last season, Mike Smith came over from Columbia and was asked to move from a high-volume scorer to a ball screen facilitator. He excelled.

Can Jones do the same? He has the statistical profile to do so, having led the Sun Belt in assists in his sophomore year (5.7 per game), while ranking in the top 40 nationally in assist rate (33.4).

MID-GREAT MONDAY 6’1 Sophomore G Devante Jones of Coastal Carolina does it all. The New Orleans native averaged 17 PPG 6 RPG and 6 APG, while also being named to the 2nd Team All-Sun Belt last season. Attention NBA Scouts!! Full tape on the FV YouTube @DevanteJones_ pic.twitter.com/oSdcbqxS9C

— Frankie Vision (@Frankie_Vision) May 18, 2020

I don’t expect Jones to struggle as a backcourt partner with Eli Brooks, a super senior who knows the Michigan system — and his role in it — better than anyone.

However, the chemistry Jones builds with Hunter Dickinson is much more important. Dickinson changed the trajectory of the Michigan program last season, leading the team in scoring (14.1 per game), rebounding (7.4) and blocks (1.4).


michigan center; Hunter Dickinson; stats 2020-21:

14.1 ppg
7.4 rpg
1.4 bpg
Only in…
24.9 mpg

The Big Ten Freshman of the Year ladies and gentlemen!!

A monster in the restricted area – would you think he’s left-handed? pic.twitter.com/jfRWgKrs3p

— Sƚαƚ Sϙυιԃ (@statsquid) Nov 2, 2021

Hypothetically, Dickinson doesn’t “need” Jones as he is great in post-up situations (1,034 PPP, 86th percentile). However, Smith and Dickinson did a lot together with ball fencing and pick and roll.

If Jones can replicate how Smith played Dickinson, it will give the Wolverines the most dangerous indoor/outdoor combination in the Big Ten.

Outside of those three, keep an eye out for new freshman Caleb Houston. Houston is the highest-rated recruit in Michigan since Glenn Robinson III in 2012 and an expected lottery pick in 2022. He has a diverse offensive arsenal, can score at all three levels and does so efficiently.

Houston and Brandon Johns Jr. will have to mimic the two-way wing game of Franz Wagner and Isaiah Livers somewhat.

But Juwan Howard is tasked with replacing two starters, a sixth man and a five-year backup center. Last year’s Wolverines finished in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency from KenPom, and the defending AP National Coach of the Year seems pretty confident they can do it again.

Bet Pick of Buffalo vs. Michigan

This line actually opened at Buffalo +18.5, but sharp money quickly pushed it down. In addition, the under opened at 152.5 but is also steamed.

I support the smart money both on the side and the total.

On opening night, MAC teams looked pretty good against the Big Ten. Akron gave Ohio State a scare and East Michigan dominated Indiana in the second half.

Buffalo is highly experienced, while Michigan has an influx of bodies that Howard has yet to fit in. It’s not crazy to think that Buffalo could put on another strong show for the MAC.

Plus 150 feels a bit high in this spot. These are two defensive teams, as Michigan went 17-11 to the under last season while Buffalo went 13-11. In addition, Michigan lost a significant portion of its score from last year.

I take the underdog and the underdog in this season opener.

Choose: Buffalo +16 (play to +15) | Under 151.5 (play to 149.5)

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