Game Preview: Michigan @ Illinois

Posted on Posted in Michigan Basketball

The NCAA tournament hopes for this young and savvy Michigan squad has taken a turn for the worst in the past week and half. The Wolverines have lost three in a row to Michigan State, Iowa and Indiana. The role of the Wolverines might have changed to that of a spoiler. Tonight, Michigan travels to Champaign to take on a hot Illinois team that has won four of its last five. In addition to that, the Illini get a key return as Rayvonte Rice comes from a broken hand.

At A Glance

MICHIGAN ILLINOIS

RECORD

13-11 (6-6)

16-8 (6-5)

PPG

64.3 72
OPP PPG 62.7

63.3

FG%

41.8% 42.8%
T/O PG 10

10

STREAK L3

W3

Team Leaders

MICHIGAN

ILLINOIS

PPG

Caris LeVert 14.9

Rayvonte Rice 17.2

REBOUNDS

Caris LeVert 4.9 Rayvonte Rice 6.9
ASSISTS Caris LeVert 3.7

Jaylon Tate 3.5

In the Wolverines’ last outing, a 70-67 loss at Indiana, we saw what Zak Irvin can be like when he’s in a groove, going off for 23 points. He also shot an efficient 3 of 5 from behind the arc. Ricky Doyle was a perfect 5 for 5 from the field and also shot 5 of 6 from the free throw line. Spike Albrecht also scored eight of the Wolverines’ last 12 points on Sunday.

There were plenty of positives offensively. The progression of this team has to keep the fans hopeful for what it could be like in the future years.

Once again tonight, Michigan will be without its two biggest stars in Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr., meaning everyone else will have to step up their game to beat the Illini. The player who stepped up last time these two teams met in Ann Arbor was Aubrey Dawkins. It was his coming out party as he went off for 20 points and was a hot 6 of 7 from behind the arc. Now that he will be in the starting lineup, the Illini will try to keep him in check this time around.

Tonight against Illinois, Michigan will have its usual size disadvantage, as the Illini have the big 6-foot-11 senior forward Nnanna Egwu. He blocks nearly two shots a game (1.8) and grabs 5.5 boards per game. Look for Michigan to try to drive and kick and get its shooters the ball in transition. Last year the Wolverines were scorching hot from three in their meeting in Champaign. They hit 16 three’s and won by 31. They obviously don’t have the likes of Nik, Caris, Derrick and Glenn, as they combined for 11 of those 16. There will be opportunities to take advantage from behind the arc. The Illini, however, have a great home court advantage and have only one loss at home this year (vs. Indiana), and have wins against the likes of Baylor, Maryland and Michigan State.

This game tonight should show what the Wolverines are really made of. Having lost three straight (two of those coming down to the wire on the road at very hostile environments) the Wolverines better be ready to fight tonight. They will have to handle the opening surge, as the Illini return their top player and are coming off the road win at Michigan State. The Orange Krush will be revved up and that will feed into the players. How the Wolverines handle the first 5-10 minutes will give a good indication of how the rest of this game will be played out. The Wolverines have a slim chance to make the big dance, and tonight would be a huge game to turn the tide and possibly sneak their way back into it.

Derek Devine
Institutional voice of Alma College during the day, Michigan fanatic at night. Taking TBHR to the next level one post at a time.