Michigan Basketball (22-4. 9-4) will host Illinois (20-8, 7-7) on Sunday afternoon at Crisler Center. Tip is scheduled for 1pm and the game will be televised on ESPN.
The Fighting Illini are currently on a 5-game winning streak that started with a win over top ranked Indiana and has included victories at Minnesota, over Purdue, at Northwestern and most recently at home vs Penn State. Illinois leads the Big Ten in 3 point field goals attempted (671) and they trail only Michigan in made three-pointers per game (7.9). Brandon Paul ranks 4th in the conference in scoring (16.4) and overall, the Illini are playing much better than they were when Michigan beat them in Champaign a few weeks ago.
The schedule has finally lightened up a bit for the Wolverines in that they will be at home for 3 of the final 5 games and the two remaining road games are against unranked teams; Penn State and Purdue.
The 7th ranked Wolverines have had a week off since they beat Penn State at home. Hopefully that week off has allowed Jordan Morgan’s ankle to get closer to full strength. In the last 5 games, Morgan has been limited to just 24 minutes and has not been his usual explosive self while nursing his badly sprained ankle.
Morgan is very good scoring in both the low post and in transition. He has perhaps been missed most on the defensive end where he is one of the best low post defenders in the conference, if not the country. “We showed the guys clips of when we had some really great defensive possessions: Minnesota, Ohio State, Northwestern, Iowa, Illinois earlier in the year,” John Beilein explained. “It was amazing how much, with the exception of one or two games, how much Jordan was a part of all of those.”
Michigan will be focused on playing better defense down the stretch. I think during their hellacious 4-games, against 3 Top 10 teams in an 11 day stretch, with games at Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan State surrounding one home contest against Ohio State, the Wolverines ran out of gas and surely missed the veteran presence of Jordan Morgan. This week off couldn’t have come at a better time and I think they will be revved up to play on Sunday. They better be because Illinois is seeking another signature win for their NCAA tournament resume.
Max Bielfeldt injured his ankle in practice and his status for the Illinois game is questionable.
Good news for Michigan is that in the win over Penn State, freshmen Glenn Robinson III (21 points, 10 boards) and Nik Stauskas (18 points, 4 assists) broke out of their mini-slumps. For the Wolverines to be effective down the stretch and into the postseason they will need production from the talented duo.
Predictions: So far this season I am 23-3 and Joe is 22-4 predicting the outcome of Michigan Basketball games. We both like Michigan to hold serve at home and beat Illinois.
Joe: Michigan 77-68
Rob: Michigan 74-64
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