Illinois vs. Michigan Odds & Pick
Illinois Fighting Illini (18-6 SU, 14-9-1 ATS) vs. Michigan Wolverines (18-1 SU, 15-4 ATS)
When: Tuesday, March 2, 7 p.m.
Where: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Point Spread: ILL +8.5/MICH -8.5 (BAS - Why bet on games at -110 odds when you could be laying -105? Making the switch to reduced juice betting will save you hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars per year!)
Last Time Out:
Illinois defeated Wisconsin 74-69; Michigan handled Indiana 73-57.
About the Matchup:
The best in the Big Ten finally meet as we head into the final week of the regular season. For Michigan, a win would be the last piece of the puzzle for a No. 1 seed, as the Wolverines would cement their position as one of the top three teams in the nation alongside Gonzaga and Baylor. The order doesn’t matter because there’s no geography to worry about with the entire tourna-ment going to Indianapolis this year, but a win here would mean the Wolverines own wins over the No. 2, 3, 4, and 5 teams (Illinois, Iowa, Purdue and Ohio State) in the nation’s strongest con-ference, plus a sweep of sixth-placed Wisconsin, a profile that nobody but Gonzaga can match.
But Illinois still has an outside chance at a No. 1 seed itself if everything falls in the Illini’s direc-tion. Truthfully, Illinois is the one team in the Big Ten who probably wouldn’t mind being paired with Baylor because the Illini have size inside that could make life difficult for the Bears and have likely learned from what didn’t work in their first meeting. But that said, Illinois would probably much rather deal with a regional final against the likes of Villanova, Alabama, or Hou-ston. If the Illini can run the table, the fourth and final No. 1 seed is probably theirs; if not, they’ll almost certainly have to take down Gonzaga or Baylor to reach the Final Four.
Scouting the Fighting Illini:
Two games without Ayo Dosunmu in uniform haven’t hurt the Illini yet, as they eased past Ne-braska and were in control for most of the way against Wisconsin before having to hang on down the stretch. Dosunmu is a question mark for this game, with the Illini hoping that he’ll play after suffering a broken nose last week against Michigan State.
With or without Dosunmu, Illinois still has a matchup nightmare in Kofi Cockburn in the interior. The big man was a force against Nebraska with 24 points in 25 minutes and helped control the game against Wisconsin down the stretch. Plus, Andre Curbelo seems to be coming into his own as a shooter, as he’s filled the void left by Dosunmu as far as offense goes by scoring 27 points in the two games without Dosunmu on the floor. However, the freshman does have to clean up his ball-handling; Curbelo turned the ball over 14 times in the Illini’s past three games. Michi-gan is already efficient enough without causing a lot of turnovers; handing the Wolverines five or six extra possessions would be deadly for Illinois.
Scouting the Wolverines:
There’s a reason the Wolverines have been one of the most reliable bets in college basketball this season: it’s because this is a true team that gets contributions from across the board. Hunter Dickinson continues to prove himself one of the Big Ten’s top centers in a league that’s full of talented bigs, which has freed up Franz Wagner and Isaiah Livers to cash in on their scoring opportunities.
But it’s the defense that really makes this team run. The Wolverines have held their past two opponents to 57 points and considering that one of them was Iowa, that’s no small feat. Michi-gan tends to make life miserable for its opponents, mainly by slowing the pace of the game and forcing opponents into sub-optimal looks at the basket. Indiana was only able to get 52 shots off and didn’t get many free throw opportunities against Michigan’s defense, making for an easy trip to Bloomington for the Wolverines.
The big men. Dickinson has proven he can play against quality centers, as this will be the third straight game in which he faces an experienced big man after going up against Trayce Jackson-Davis and Luka Garza. Both were ineffective against Michigan’s defense, and Dickinson actually outscored and outrebounded Jackson-Davis in the win over the Hoosiers.
Illinois cannot afford to have that happen with Cockburn because if Dosunmu can’t go, the Illini have nothing to combat Michigan without Cockburn getting the job done inside. The Illinois cen-ter has been incredibly difficult to defend when he’s on the floor, and he has to make sure that he’s at his best for this one, especially if he’s without his running mate.
Illinois will Cover If:
The Illini can keep Cockburn on the floor and out of foul trouble. Winning the rebounding battle is critical enough for the Illini, but not giving the Wolverines free oppor-tunities at the line is even more important. Michigan shot 89 percent from the stripe against Indiana, and the Wolverines are 77.6 percent from the line as a team for the year. Among the starters, the “weakest” is Dickinson, who shoots 76.7 percent from the line. If Cockburn’s not on the floor and the Illini have handed the Wolverines free chances at the line, it’s likely curtains for Illinois.
Michigan will Cover If:
The Wolverines can force the Illinois guards to beat them. Michigan doesn’t have to stop Cockburn in order to win this game, but the Wolverines showed no prob-lems stopping Garza and Jackson-Davis, which means Juwan Howard will likely try to have his team do the same thing in this game to the Illinois big man. If it’s effective, the Wolverines will be in a strong position as long as Illinois’ guards don’t have a huge shooting night.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread
Something isn’t right here. I’m not sure whether the mistake is on the spread or the total (and it could certainly be both), but at least one appears too high to me. The Wolverines’ defense is too good for this total to hit in a game that they control, which means either Illinois is getting too many points or that we need to bet the under (or both). In 14 league games, the Wolverines have held the combined score under 150 11 times, with the three exceptions being Maryland twice and Ohio State.
The concern is the Illinois defense, which has been much more hit or miss this season, and Dosunmu, who might or might not play. But Illinois’ defense has been playing pretty well as of late, holding four of its past five opponents to 70 points or less. It’s hard to go against Michigan with how well the Wolverines have covered this year, but I think the line is just a tad off. I’ll take Illinois and the points and pair it with the under. Bet this week’s picks for FREE by taking advantage of a 100% real cash bonus offer on your first deposit of $100 to $300 at MyBookie Sportsbook! (Must use bonus code PREDICT100)
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