The Michigan Wolverines (15-0) are traveling to face the Illinois Fighting Illini (4-11) on Thursday, January 10th in what will be each team’s fifth conference game. Michigan is coming off a big win against Indiana keeping them perfect on the year while Illinois will be looking to bounce back after a tough two-point loss to Northwestern.
Here is the preview and prediction for Michigan basketball vs. Illinois…
What: Michigan Wolverines (2) @ Illinois Fighting Illini
When: Thursday, January 10th, 8:00 PM
Where: State Farm Center, University of Illinois
Keys to Victory for Michigan: Illinois is letting up nearly 75 points per game to opposing teams. Michigan should have no problem scoring on this less than stellar defense. They should have no problem stopping them either as Michigan still holds the nation’s third best scoring defense.
The one thing that could keep Illinois in the game is if Michigan loses their composure. Playing on the road in the Big Ten is not an easy feat even if it is against the worst team in the conference. I expect the Illini crowd to be rocking all night with the number two team in the nation coming to town.
Michigan hasn’t been as dominant against inferior opponents as of late. If they overlook Illinois on the road and do not get out to a lead early, an easy win could turn into a tough out on the road. Michigan needs to come out focused looking to take care of business in order to cruise to a victory.
Michigan’s big three in Brazdeikis, Jordan Poole, and Charles Matthews have continued to be consistently excellent and they will need to set the tone for the rest of the team. Another key to watch will be the play of Freshmen forward Brandon Johns Jr.
Johns Jr. logged a career high 13 minutes as well as eight points and eight rebounds in Michigan’s last game due to an injury to Isaiah Livers. If Johns Jr. can be another consistent threat from the Wolverine bench, this team will become that much more dangerous.
Keys to Victory for Illinois: Illinois will need an outstanding effort to knock off number two Michigan. They offer a pretty balanced offensive attack with three players averaging in double figures and two close behind them. The key for the Illini however will be to slow down the Wolverine offense.
Michigan is a defensive team that looks to smother their opponent, chip away on offense until they go on a run and then capitalize by locking in on defense. Illinois will need to contain any run that Michigan goes on if they are going to compete.
Illinois will more than likely be held below their average points because of Michigan’s defense, so they will need their best effort stopping the Wolverines in order to have a chance.
Although Illinois has only won four games, they have lost some close ones including losing by only six to Gonzaga early in the year. If they can stick with Michigan and remain close in the second half, they might have a chance to upset the number two team in the nation on their home floor.
Prediction: Although they are playing at home, it will be extremely difficult for Illinois to knock off the Wolverines. Michigan is 15-0 and the number two team in the nation for a reason. I expect Michigan’s offense to have their way all night long leading to a relatively easy victory.
Michigan has plenty of weapons offensively and a defense capable of shutting down just about anyone. Michigan should remain on top of the Big Ten and move to 16-0 on the season.
Final Score: Michigan 80 – Illinois 67