ILLINOIS (16-8, 5-6 Big Ten) AT NO. 25 MICHIGAN (18-7, 8-4 Big Ten)
Time: 1 p.m.
Location: Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Illinois 38 (No. 6 Big Ten)
Michigan 15 (No. 3 Big Ten)
Line: Michigan -6.5 (119 o/u)
Illinois Players to Watch: C Meyers Leonard, 7-1 So. (13.5 ppg, 7. rpg, 58.7% FG); G Brandon Paul, 6-4 Jr. (15.1 ppg, 5 rpg, 3.1 apg); G D.J. Richardson, 6-3 Jr. (12.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2 apg). After scoring 17 points on 7-of-10 from the field and three rebounds in Thursday’s 84-71 loss at Indiana, Leonard ranks third in the Big Ten in field goal percentage and rebounds and is 16th in scoring.
Michigan Players to Watch: G Tim Hardaway Jr., 6-6 So. (14.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.5 apg); G Trey Burke, 5-11 Fr. (14 ppg, 4.9 apg, 3.6 rpg); F Zack Novak, 6-4 Sr. (9.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 50.9% FG). Novak surpassed 1,000 career points with a 14-point performance in Wednesday’s 62-46 win over Nebraska.
Storylines: Michigan remains a game-and-a-half behind Big Ten-leading Ohio State, despite three losses in its last seven league games. Overall, the Wolverines have split their last eight games, alternating wins and losses. Once 4-1 in the conference and riding high after a win over then-No. 5 Ohio State, Illinois’ NCAA Tournament bid is now in jeopardy after losing five of its last six, including an 84-71 loss at Indiana on Thursday.
Key Stats: Both teams play stingy defense. The Wolverines are fourth in the Big Ten, allowing 60.4 points per game, and Illinois is fifth at 62.3. Illinois allows its opponents to shoot just 41.3 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from the 3-point line, while Michigan gives up 42.4 from the floor and 34.8 from deep. The Illini should have a significant advantage on the glass. They out-rebound opponents by 2.3 boards per game. Michigan has just two more rebounds than its opponents this season. The Wolverines force two more turnovers per game than they commit, while Illinois is even on the season. Michigan is second in the Big Ten with 8.2 3-pointers made per game, but they are eighth in the league in 3-point percentage at 34.9. The Illini shoot 32.2 percent from behind the arc, which is 11th in the Big Ten. Michigan, which has played only two home games since Jan. 17, is 13-0 at Crisler Arena this season. Illinois is 2-4 in true road games having lost its last three away from home.
The Bottom Line: This game will be competitive for most of the afternoon with the Wolverines pulling away late for a comfortable win.
The Pick: Michigan 68, Illinois 61
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