Northwestern basketball has a chance to extend its first Big Ten winning streak of the season and earn its first ranked win with a trip to No. 24 Michigan on Monday night.
The Wildcats (13-9, 4-5 B1G) come in as significant underdogs to the Wolverines (17-6, 6-4 B1G). In its last game, Michigan went toe-to-toe with No. 3 Purdue in Mackey Arena. Northwestern picked up a solid win at Minnesota and has been playing up to its potential, but Michigan will be a different level of opponent entirely.
Of course, the last time these two teams faced each other, Northwestern scored the defining basket of...maybe the entire history of the program.
Several of the components from other great Northwestern/Michigan games from the past few years are back and better than ever. The immortal Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rakhman is back. Remember the 2015 Tre Demps double-overtime game at Welsh-Ryan? MAAR had 13 in that contest. Duncan Robinson, best known by Northwestern fans for breaking our hearts in overtime of the 2016 Big Ten Tournament, is back and shooting his usual 37 percent from three.
But Michigan has more talent to throw at Northwestern. Star 6-foot-11 center Moritz Wagner came back for his junior year and is putting up his usual numbers. He’s also shooting 41 percent from three, to make things even more unfair. Sophomores Charles Matthew and Zavier Simpson have both made huge strides this season under John Beilein and done a good job of replacing Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton.
Michigan is No. 24 in KenPom’s rankings and the AP Poll. They have a top 50 offense and defense by KenPom and have one of the lowest turnover rates in the country. It looks like Michigan has another battle-tested Michigan team that will be ranked in the top 25 at the end of the season. Typical. Northwestern’s numbers aren’t as good, but the team finally shot the ball well against Minnesota, so hopefully that continues.
Northwestern and Michigan haven’t played a bad basketball game since 2015. Seriously. Hopefully this game lives up to the billing.
Game Time, location: 6 p.m. central, Crisler Center
Online: Fox Sports Go
Mobile: Fox Sports Go
Radio: 720 WGN
KenPom prediction: 59-68 (20% chance to win)
Betting Line: Michigan -8
Last meeting: Let’s just watch it again.