Upcoming Match-ups

#5 Michigan a Slight Favorite at Illinois After Getting Blasted by Louisville in First True Road Game

Blair Johnson

by Blair Johnson in College Basketball

Updated Apr 9, 2020 · 3:24 PM PDT

Michigan center John Teske warming up
John Teske and the Wolverines play just their second true road game of the season on Wednesday at Illinois. Photo by TonyTheTiger (Wikipedia) [CC License].
  • #5 Michigan is a two-point favorite at Illinois on Wednesday night (Dec. 11)
  • UM was blasted by Louisville (58-43) in its first true road game, but rebounded with a 103-91 home victory against Iowa
  • The Fighting Illini nearly knocked of #3 Maryland in College Park on Saturday, falling 59-58

The No. 5 Michigan Wolverines are two-point favorites against the Illinois Fighting Illini on Wednesday night (Dec. 11, 9:00 PM ET) in an early Big Ten Conference game.

The Maize and Blue got blasted by Louisville last Tuesday in their first true road game of the season, but bounced back on Friday to beat Iowa 103-91 in Ann Arbor. Meanwhile, the Illini nearly knocked off No. 3 Maryland in College Park last Saturday, falling 59-58 in a game they led until the final minute.

Michigan Wolverines vs Illinois Fighting Illini odds

Team Moneyline Spread Over/Under
Michigan TBD -2.0 (-115) O 143.5 (-105)
Illinois TBD +2.0 (-105) U 143.5 (-115)

Odds taken Dec. 10 

The Michigan vs Illinois odds figured to be tight with a fairly high total considering these two teams’ recent outings.  And that’s exactly what we got. Even though Michigan is No. 5 in the nation according to the AP Poll, sportsbooks are still taking a wait-and-see approach on Juwan Howard’s program, which is a consensus +1800 to cut down the nets in Atlanta according to the latest 2020 NCAA Tournament odds.

What about this early season Big Ten contest in Champaign? Can Michigan rebound from its road loss to Louisville in its first conference road game? Will Illinois carry the momentum from a tough loss at Maryland into Wednesday’s game? Let’s break this one down and offer a prediction.

 From 43 to 103

The Wolverines went from scoring only 43 points against the Cardinals to putting up 103 against the Hawkeyes three days later. That’s quite a swing. Of course, Louisville is rated No. 3 in defense-adjusted efficiency according to KenPom.com and sits atop the AP Poll for a reason.

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Michigan had it going against Iowa. The Wolverines shot over 55-percent from the field and nearly 42-percent from downtown (dropping 10-of-24 shots from beyond the arc).

Which team will show up at the State Farm Center on Wednesday? I expect Michigan’s offense to look more like it did against Iowa. The Wolverines are averaging just over 80 points per game and I see Zavier Simpson and co. being able to put up points. Illinois has a respectable defense (62nd at KenPom) but surrendered an average of 85.5 PPG in its first two games against top-100 teams (Arizona & Miami).

So Close

The Fighting Illini nearly picked up an early statement win against the Terrapins on Saturday.

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Illinois held Maryland to a measly 33-percent from the field and were up three with under a minute to go before Anthony Cowan Jr. knocked down a deep triple to tie the game. Cowan knocked down a free throw moments later for the deciding point.

But Illinois has shown they’re for real this season. Brad Underwood’s team sports a 6-3 record and is only a couple possessions away from being 8-1  Wednesday’s home game is a chance to showcase players like freshman Kofi Cockburn and marksman Giorgi Bezhanishvili.

Obvious Trend

According to KenPom.com, Michigan is No. 5 in effective field-goal percentage while Illinois is No. 1 in offensive rebounding percentage. Those are two of the statistics the website calls its “Four Factors” to determine offensive output. In fact, when the Fighting Illini grab at least 11 offensive boards in a game, they’re 6-0. When they don’t, they’re 0-3.

KenPom.com predicts Michigan will win 71-70 — meaning it should be a close one and fairly high scoring. I love the over in the spot. Yes, 143.5 is a big number. But these teams have proven they can score. And in a virtual pick ’em, over the total is a safer play.

Pick: Over 143.5 (-110)

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