The point spread seems pretty lofty in the January 14th Michigan at Illinois betting preview as the Fighting Illini are -9.5 favorites Friday night in Champaign. The Wolverines (7-6) were a top 5 team in the nation earlier this season but have also dropped three of their last four and got spanked by Illinois 76-53 in Ann Arbor last year in the last head to head meeting.
The Illini (12-3) meanwhile are on fire as winners of 10 of their last 12. Illinois is 5-0 to start Big Ten play (Michigan 1-2) and are 7-1 at the State Farm Center this season. Few would argue that Illinois can pick up the win here – but is that spread just a bit too high?
Turning Point for Michigan
Everybody keeps waiting for the Wolverines to turn their season around after getting up to #4 in the nation but suffering a free fall that has knocked them out of the top 25. Michigan is just 5-6 since starting the season 2-0, and that includes a 1-2 start to Big Ten play with losses at home to Minnesota (75-65) and at Rutgers (75-67).
Michigan is also dealing with some rust issues since their loss to Rutgers last time out was 10 days ago. That was the first time the Scarlet Knights had ever beaten Michigan in program history and it was the third time in the last four games that the Wolverines had allowed 75+ points. UM now has the #9 defense in the Big Ten and they’re up against an Illinois squad that is 25th in the country in scoring at 80.5 ppg.
The Wolverines not only have questions on defense, their offense missed 9 layups in the game against Rutgers. Hunter Dickinson had a solid game for Michigan with 25 points and two other players had at least a dozen and they still lost by 8.. Overall the Wolverines just seem to be in a rut as their game before the Rutgers loss was a 71-65 defeat at Central Florida as -3 point favorites.
Illinois Rolling Up the Rankings
The Fighting Illini have finally cracked back into the top 25 after getting as high as #10 before back to back losses to Marquette (67-66) and Cincinnati (71-51). Illinois has ripped off wins in 10 of their last 11 since then though with the lone defeat coming 83-79 at home to then #11 Arizona who have since risen to #6.
Illinois has gone 5-0 in Big Ten play and have three straight double-digit conference wins over Minnesota, Maryland, and Nebraska. The Illini failed to cover the -12.5 number in Tuesday’s 81-71 win over Nebraska but they did get a huge performance from Trent Frazier who had 29 points.
Michigan has a solid big an in Dickinson, but Illinois may have the most dominating interior player in the country with Kofi Cockburn patrolling the paint. Cockburn had 16/13 vs. Nebraska for his 8th straight double-double but only had 12/5 last year vs. Michigan while battling foul trouble. Dickinson had just 6 points in last year’s meeting.
Free January 14th Michigan at Illinois Betting Pick
The Fighting Illini are on a roll but Michigan is still a quality team despite their recent struggles. It should be a raucous night at the State Farm Center and with the Wolverines coming off a 10-day break Illinois should be able to get out to a big win early and hold on.
Illinois 85 – Michigan 71
Free Pick: Illinois -9.5