Tonight in Ann Arbor, Michigan and No. 6 Wisconsin will compete against each other in what will be ESPN's primetime event. Wisconsin and Michigan are 5-1 and 5-2 in the Big Ten, respectively, and, if Indiana loses to Ohio State in Columbus tomorrow afternoon, the winner of this game will be in first place.
But don't allow those conference records deceive you. Wisconsin is the class of the Big Ten and expected to roll over Michigan. The Badgers own the second-most efficient offense in the nation and a triumvirate of excellent big men (Big Ten Player of the Year frontrunner Frank Kaminsky, Nigel Hayes, and Sam Dekker) that can beat teams both inside and out. Plus, Wisconsin's defense leverages opponents into numerous long twos, which are shots Michigan will have no problem taking but all the trouble making. Add in that Michigan has been ravaged by injuries and will be without the services of Caris LeVert, and it'd be irrational to think Michigan has a legitimate shot to spring the upset.
SO LET'S BE IRRATIONAL!
Here is why Michigan will bring down the mighty Badgers tonight:
IF RUTGERS CAN DO IT, ANYONE CAN!
Rutgers beat Wisconsin. I repeat: Rutgers beat Wisconsin.
This is the same Rutgers program that hasn't had a winning season since 2006. This is the same Rutgers program that lost to Louisville by 48 points and 61 points last season. This is the same Rutgers program that was held to 26 points against Virginia. This is the same Rutgers program that lost to both Saint Peter's (by 18 points!!!) and St. Francis (PA) at home. This is the same Rutgers program that has the Big Ten's least-efficient offense. And this is the same Rutgers program that had never before beaten an AP Top 5 team.
This is the Rutgers program that upset Wisconsin.
So, if Rutgers can upset Wisconsin at home, Michigan can do it, too!
(Wait, Frank Kaminsky missed the Rutgers game? Who's Frank Kaminsky?)
TRANSITIVE PROPERTY NEVER LIES!
Without Caris LeVert, Michigan beat Rutgers by four points in Piscataway.
Wisconsin lost to Rutgers by five points in Piscataway.
Since transitive property has never ever lied, this means that a LeVert-less Michigan team should be able to beat Wisconsin by no fewer than nine points at the Crisler Center.
(Seriously, why do you keep bringing up this Frank Kaminsky guy likes he's a big deal?)
MICHIGAN DOESN'T LOSE WHEN JIM HARBAUGH OR COLLEGE GAMEDAY IS AT CRISLER CENTER!
Jim Harbaugh was announced as Michigan's new head football coach on December 30th. Later that afternoon, he was introduced to the public for the first time at halftime of Michigan's Big Ten opener against Illinois. What happened? The Wolverines rallied back from a 13-point deficit in the second half to defeat the Fighting Illini in overtime. The next basketball game that Harbaugh attended was last Saturday's home matchup against Northwestern. Harbaugh was there with much of his new coaching staff and a bunch of recruits visiting the campus, and they all watched the Wolverines eke out a win against the Wildcats. So Michigan is a perfect 2-0 when Harbaugh is in attendance.
It's abundantly clear that the The Harbaugh Effect is real.
Then, there's ESPN College GameDay, which will be at the Crisler Center today. Only once before has College GameDay come to Ann Arbor to do its show at the Crisler Center in preparation for a big game: when Michigan hosted Ohio State on February 18, 2012. The Wolverines were a sizable underdog but needed the win nonetheless to maintain their Big Ten championship hopes. What happened? A freshman Trey Burke sunk this floater over his best friend, Jared Sullinger, to seal the monumental victory for Michigan, a win that would propel the Wolverines to their first Big Ten title in 26 years. Accordingly, Michigan is a perfect 1-0 when College GameDay is at the Crisler Center.
Guess who was a special guest on College GameDay today: Harbaugh.
With both Harbaugh AND College GameDay in the house, Wisconsin better watch out.
(What do you mean the presence of Harbaugh and GameDay doesn't affect the outcome?)
WISCONSIN WASTED ALL OF ITS MADE SHOTS IN ITS LAST TWO GAMES VS. NEBRASKA AND IOWA!
Have you ever, while warming up for a basketball game, told a friend or teammate that was drilling every pregame shot to stop shooting and save their shots for the game? Yes? Well, Wisconsin has kind of been like that friend if you consider its recent games to be a pregame to tonight's contest. In their last two games against Nebraska and Iowa, the Badgers have scored 152 points on 108 possessions for an incredible rate of 1.407 points per possession. To do this, they made 30-of-59 two-pointers (50.8 pct.) and 20-of-43 threes (46.5 pct.) for an eFG% of 58.8 percent. While Wisconsin's two-point rate is about normal, that three-point rate is significantly above its season rate (35.8 pct.). This isn't sustainable. Wisconsin will cool off from the outside soon, so it may as well be tonight!
(What do you mean Wisconsin's offense has been doing this to opposing defenses all year?)
MICHIGAN'S OFFENSE IS DUE TO EXPLODE!
It's time for Michigan to light it up again on the offensive end of the floor. In their first eight games, the Wolverines scored over one point per possession seven times, but, in their 11 games thereafter, they have hit that threshold only four times. And Michigan has failed to reach that mark in each of its last three games. The reason for this is that Michigan has really struggled with its shooting, especially inside the three-point line. In its last three games, Michigan has not posted an eFG% higher than 42.9 percent because U-M converted only 34-of-91 two-pointers (37.4 pct.) and 12-of-44 from midrange (27.3 pct.) in those games. That's bad. Michigan is due for a hot-shooting performance tonight!
(What do you mean Wisconsin's pack-line defense exploits Michigan's weaknesses?)
JOHN BEILEIN DANCES BETTER THAN BO RYAN!
The College Basketball Gods always favor the team with the better-dancing coach, right?
OK, maybe Bo Ryan is a bit of a better dancer than John Beilein. Maybe. It's debatable.
(Why do you keep repeating that I have completely lost my mind?)
There you have it: the best, seal-tight case for why Michigan will beat Wisconsin tonight. You would be an absolute sucker to bet against the Wolverines after reading this. So, when the game clock strikes 0:00 in the second half, prepare to sing "The Victors."
(What do you mean that I should have a bottle of bourbon next to me just in case?)