Northwestern Wildcats vs. Michigan Wolverines Pick & Prediction FEBRUARY 22nd 2024

Northwestern senses urgency entering Thursday’s meeting in Evanston, Ill., with struggling Michigan, and not merely because the Wildcats are trying to stay in the hunt for a top-four seed and double bye in next month’s Big Ten tournament.

Playing with purpose on each possession remains the approach for Northwestern (18-8, 9-6 Big Ten), which is trying to stay unbeaten at home in conference play.

“(Coach Chris Collins) talks to all of us about just letting it rip,” Wildcats guard Ryan Langborg said. “Obviously take care of the ball, but you got to put pressure on the defense and take what they’re giving you.”

Northwestern guard Boo Buie (19.0 points per game) needs five points to surpass John Shurna as the all-time leading scorer in program history.

Buie could push for the milestone early, but as a team, Northwestern knows it must pace itself throughout the game. The Wildcats, who are fourth in the Big Ten, built a 16-point, second-half lead at Indiana on Sunday but saw it whittled to three before holding on for a 76-72 win.

Michigan (8-18, 3-12) has lost three straight and eight of its past nine, with each defeat coming by at least 10 points.

With three of the Wolverines’ final five regular-season games set for the road, where they are 1-6 in league play, Michigan realizes there is ample room for improvement.

Atop the list: limiting turnovers. The Wolverines had 22 in Saturday’s 73-63 home loss to Michigan State.

“Overall, I felt like we were rushing at times, too sped up,” Michigan center Tarris Reed Jr. said. “I know the energy and the excitement was there from the jump. Especially for me, I know I was ready to go. I felt like we needed to slow down.”

Finding equilibrium, then, will be the Wolverines’ goal on Thursday.

“Sometimes in these big-time games, it’s good to be poised and calmed down just a little bit and have a good balance of hyped up and calm at the same time so you can see things clearly but be ready to go,” Michigan guard Nimari Burnett said.

Dug McDaniel leads the Wolverines in scoring with an average of 16.6 points per game, but Thursday marks the final road game for which he is ineligible due to an academic-related suspension.

–Field Level Media

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