Michigan center Hunter Dickinson (1) reacts to hitting three-point basket against San Diego State in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Michigan Wolverines (5-3) — now unranked after being as high as No. 4 in the AP poll this season — open Big Ten play against the Nebraska Cornhuskers (5-4) Tuesday at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Tip off is at 7:00 pm ET on ESPN2.

Michigan enters the contest as favorites according to oddsmakers and KenPom predicts the Maize and Blue will win 73-66.

Team Moneyline Spread at FanDuel Total
Michigan -360 -7.5 (-118) O 140.5 (-110)
Nebraska +280 +7.5 (-104) U 140.5 (-110)

Odds as of  December 6th 2021.

Hunter Dickinson showed why he’s so dangerous against the Aztecs. The 7-foot-1 First-Team All-American candidate scored 23 points (including 3-of-3 from distance) and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead Juwan Howard’s club to a much-needed 14-point victory.

Meantime, Fred Hoiberg’s team saw Alonzo Verge, Jr. put up 15 points, five rebounds and a season-low three assists against the Hoosiers. But it wasn’t enough to cover up Bryce McGowens’ rough night. The highly-recruited freshman only scored eight points (on 3-for-14 shooting) — the first time he hasn’t reached double figures in five games.

Dazed and Blue

It’s far too early to tell if Dickinson’s foray into “going the distance” is going to be a thing — but his outside game was a major factor in Saturday’s win over a solid San Diego State squad.

Dickinson had just four points in a 72-51 blowout loss to the Tar Heels at the Dean Dome last Wednesday. He needed to respond — and he did. But not necessarily in the matter SDSU expected. He had not made or taken more than one shot beyond the arc in his UM careers prior to the revelation. But after NBA teams advised him to add the 3-point shot to repertoire, Dickinson made a concerted effort to expand his game. Perhaps the work is paying off.

The Huskers are not exactly suffocating on defense. Hoiberg’s crew allows 72.3 points per game to opponents (259th in Division I) and allows a 147th-rated 3-point percentage to other teams. Michigan has alternated wins and losses since winning its first two contests out of the gate. If Dickinson is going to be this versatile, Nebraska will be in trouble.

McGowens Places

McGowens has been a difference makers through the first nine games of his Nebraska career. The 6-foot-7 wing  from South Carolina leads the team in scoring (17.3) and rebounding (6.9) and has been everything his coach could ask for.

The Husker program hasn’t had a player of this caliber since possibly ever — and as he goes, so goes the fortunes of this group. McGowens has scored in single-digits only three times so far this season –and two of those performances resulted in Nebraska defeats.

This team acquits itself sufficiently in a handful of categories on KenPom. It’s rated 9th in average possession length, 27th in turnover percentage  offense and 38th in non-steal turnover percentage.

The Huskers had a 10-point lead in the first half, but things eventually unraveled. If McGowens can get going, Michigan might find itself in another tight one. And that’s something Howard wants no part of.

The Pick

The Wolverines have clearly disappointed early on. Many college basketball observers had them pegged to be atop the conference standings and vie for a national championship. And, all that is still possible. But as Michigan’s Big Ten slate opens, its 5-3 record has them sitting in the 10th slot out of 14 teams in the conference — only two spots ahead of Nebraska.

If Dickinson and his talented teammates can carry the momentum gained Saturday into Tuesday’s outing, the Maize and Blue will be just fine — no matter how McGowens and Co. do.

The Maize and Blue have had too many disappointments already. I don’t expect the outing against Nebraska to be another.

Pick: Michigan -7.5 (-118)

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