Our Big 10 college basketball pick has the #2 Michigan Wolverines (15-0 Overall, 4-0 Big 10) at the unranked Illinois Fighting illini (4-11 Overall, 0-4 Big 10). This Illinois vs Michigan preview finds that the Wolverines are favored by -8.5 or 9.0. The visiting team comes to this game with a perfect record, while Illinois is looking for its first conference win and its fifth victory of the season. The game will tip off at 8 pm ET at the State Farm Center in Champaign, IL.
In nonconference play, the Wolverines convincingly beat #8 Villanova 73-46 and #11 North Carolina 84-67. In the Big 10, they took on and beat #19 Purdue 76-57 and #21 Indiana 74-63. Additional conference victories included a close 62-60 call with Northwestern and a convincing 68-55 win over Penn State.
Although the Fighting Illini started their season with a 99-60 thrashing of Evansville, wins have not come easily to this team. After their first win, they lost four in a row before clinching another victory. Then it was three more losses followed by two wins. They’re now in the midst of a four-game losing streak that includes a 73-65 beating by #21 Indiana. They lasy played and lost on Jan. 6 to Northwestern 68-66.
Stats – Same/Different
Our Illinois vs Michigan preview finds that these two teams are very close in certain statistical categories. They are neck-and-neck in points per game (73) and assists per game (14). Illinois is better than Michigan in steals per game (7.8-to-6.4) and foul shooting (68.7%-to-65.9%). On the other hand, the Wolverines are bringing down 36.3 RPG to Illinois’ 33.9, and the visitors are hitting 46.8% of their field goals and 37.0% of their threes. The Fighting Illni are good on 42.4% of their shots from the field and 34.4% of their threes.
But the biggest discrepancy between these two teams, and perhaps just about any team that the Wolverines will meet, is in opponent points allowed. On defense, Illinois is giving up 74.4 PPG for a PF/PA differential of -1.0. The Wolverines are allowing 55.6 PPG. That makes them +17 and change. The clear advantage here goes to the visiting Wolverines.
Players to Watch
Here’s the thing about Michigan, they are not flashy and don’t have a whole lot of spectacular moves. They are efficient, hard-working, and disciplined. Freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis leads the team in points with 16.0 per game. He’s also grabbing 5.3 RPG and connecting on 48.5% of his field goals and 39.6% of his threes. Senior guard Charles Matthews is next in line sinking 14.2 PPG and also taking down 5.3 RPG. Sophomore guard Jordan Poole is a lights-out shooter, putting in 47% of his threes and 53% of his shots from the floor. Junior center Jon Teske is tough in the paint, leading the team with 6.1 RPG and connecting on 48.3% of his field goals. Finally, sophomore forward Isaiah Livers is hitting 50.7% of his shots and 46.5% of his threes.
For Illinois, sophomore guard Trent Frazier tops the team with 14.9 PPG. He’s good on 41% of his field goals and 40% of his threes. Two freshmen, guard Ayo Dosunmu and forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili, are major contributors. Dosunmu, who’s a 43% field goal shooter and 39% on threes, has been good for 12.9 PPG. Bezhanishvili is averaging 10.1 PPG and 4.8 RPG while connecting on 50% of his attempts. Senior guard Aaron Jordan leads the team with 4.9 RPG and is contributing 9.5 PPG.
Illinois is young and talented. But Michigan brings a sound mix of experience and youth. Plus, it’s tough to challenge their depth. Our Illinois vs Michigan pick likes the Wolverines when it comes to player talent, skill, and output.
Keys to this Game
Here are some important considerations according to our research for our Illinois vs Michigan preview.
- Michigan will look to take control of pace
- Illinois has to be patient and find solid scoring chances
- Wolverines will work to grind down Illini, utilizing players off bench
- Illinois perimeter game has to click
- Michigan wins battle in paint
Illinois vs Michigan Preview – Our Pick
One thing we did discover in developing our Illinois vs Michigan preview is that the Fighting Illni can battle and stay with better teams. But this Wolverine defense is especially stingy. We think they will successfully suppress the Illinois offense. Our Illinois vs Michigan pick is the visiting Wolverines at -8.5. See our Miami vs Boston NBA spread pick. That game tips off at 7 pm ET. Also, see our Gonzaga vs Pacific pick. That WCC contest starts at 11:00 pm ET.