College Basketball Pick: Illinois vs Michigan
NCAA Basketball Spread: Off
Michigan’s basketball program is looking up. The Wolverines are currently third in the hotly contested Big Ten. Illinois is in the middle of the pack, and the Fighting Illini really need to pick up a quality road win at some point during the season. The Fighting Illini come into this one on a cold streak, while Michigan has split its last six games. Which team can come up with a key Big Ten victory?
Illinois had a great win at home over Ohio State earlier this year, but the Fighting Illini haven’t been consistent. They beat Michigan State at home last week, only to lose at home to Northwestern the following game. Brandon Paul put up 43 points in that Illinois win over Ohio State, but he is shooting just 38.9% from the floor on the season. Meyers Leonard is a much improved player for the Fighting Illini. Leonard is a strong post player who can also step out and knock down the open jump shot when needed. D.J. Richardson has only scored in double figures twice in the last eight games, and he is a guy that Illinois needs to get more out of. Illinois isn’t a particularly strong offense, and they do go through long scoring droughts at times.
Bruce Weber’s teams are known for their solid half court defense. This team isn’t his best defensive team, but they are improving as the season moves along. Illinois holds opponents to 41% shooting from the floor. The opposition is scoring 61.3 points per game against the Fighting Illini.
John Beilein has done a great job turning around this Michigan basketball program. He was successful at West Virginia, and now he has put his stamp on another major program. The Wolverines picked up an NCAA Tournament win last year, and they are looking for even more this season. Trey Burke has stepped in and done a terrific job at the point guard spot for Michigan. Burke is a freshman, but he is already turning into a team leader. He averages 14 points per game, and he already has 122 assists this year. Tim Hardaway Jr. is the team’s leading scorer at 14.3 points per game. He can create off the dribble better than anyone else on this squad. Michigan relies heavily on the three-point shot.
The Wolverines do a great job controlling the tempo and taking care of the basketball. Michigan isn’t a big team, but they do a nice job keeping the opponent off the offensive glass. Opponents are averaging just 60.4 points per game against Michigan’s defense this year. If you are going to beat Michigan, it is usually from the outside since they like to pack the paint with a lot of defenders.
This sets up to be a very low scoring game. The defenses should have control in this one. Illinois hasn’t proven they can win on the road.
Prediction: Michigan 58 Illinois 52
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