College Basketball Game of the Week: Michigan vs. Louisville
The No. 4 Michigan Wolverines and No. 1 Louisville Cardinals will play in the 21st edition of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Tuesday Night in the third top-five matchup of the college basketball season. Both teams are off to 7-0 starts and have beaten formidable opponents early on. The biggest question is whether or not they can keep up the success.
Michigan was unranked to start the season upon new head coach Juwan Howard coming in to replace the highly regarded John Beilein. But the Wolverine have defied expectations, soaring to No. 4 in the nation in this week’s AP Poll. That’s the biggest jumped for a previously unranked team ever, tying 1989 Kansas.
Michigan’s hot start includes back-to-back victories against top-10 teams in Gonzaga and North Carolina. A large reason for the Wolverines’ success so far is the play of Isaiah Livers and Zavier Simpson. Both parts of the upperclassman duo are off to incredible starts and have proven to bring the starpower needed for the Wolverines to overcome the departures of last year’s talent. Coming into the top-five showdown with Louisville, the Wolverines could not be more on a roll.
Unlike Michigan, Louisville has been ranked in the top five since the season began. The Cardinals kicked off the year by routing Miami on the road and has not stopped since. With Duke’s surprising loss to Stephen F. Austin last week, Louisville now sits atop the rankings.
Jordan Nwora has proven to be one of the best players in the nation and has only improved his stock for the NBA draft. He is averaging nearly 22 points per game and is the leader of the pack for the No. 1 team in the nation.
Another star for Louisville is senior Steven Enoch, a rebounding machine who absolutely dominates in the paint. The biggest question for him is whether he can develop a decent jump shot as the season progresses in order to become more versatile.
This matchup between Michigan and Louisville will come down to the battle inside. If the Cardinals can keep the Wolverines off of the boards, they’ll come out on top, but that is a rather difficult task, as proven by the past three games.
The scoring prowess of Louisville will provide a challenge for the Michigan defense, but if the Wolverines can stick with the Cardinals forwards, then the outcome will be different.
With the way these teams are playing now, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Michigan and Louisville meet again in the national championship: a rematch of 2013’s title game. With an NCAA Tournament victory would be the top goal for both of these programs, the main focus for now is on Tuesday night. With revenge on the mind for 2013, the Wolverines pull out a close one over the top-ranked Cardinals.
Prediction: Michigan 68, Louisville 64
Ben Geller is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.