The Illinois Fighting Illini are in Ann Arbor looking to slay the beast of the Big Ten. The Michigan Wolverines are playing like a freight train at the moment, and rate as a serious threat to win the NCAA Tournament. What Juwan Howard has done at Michigan in his short time as head coach, which has been his dream job, has been nothing short of amazing. Howard, who was emotional when being introduced as the new head coach of the Wolverines two years ago, has turned an already solid program into a powerhouse.
Michigan fans were upset, to an extent, when John Beilein left Ann Arbor for Cleveland. Beilein turned a mediocre program into a team that ran deep in NCAA Tournaments. Howard, though, has taken this team to the next level. Does it automatically equate to a National Championship? Nope. There is a lot of work to be done for Howard and the Wolverines. Gonzaga and Baylor, along with potential upsets in March stand in front of Michigan. That said, they could put Michigan as the No. 1 team in the country, and I wouldn’t argue with that ranking.
The best might be yet to come for Michigan as well. Howard has Michigan on pace to have the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, so the influx of talent going through Ann Arbor is just getting started. Certainly, the NBA is going to come calling, so Howard is going to have options in the future, though. That might be the biggest threat to the Michigan basketball program. I’m sure the University of Michigan will take good care of him financially if he wants to stay at Michigan.
Michigan goes into Tuesday night with a record of 18-1. They suffered a loss on the road against Minnesota on January 16, 75-57, but have been perfect otherwise. That was a rare occasion where the Wolverines didn’t look interested in showing up to play. With Baylor recently losing, Gonzaga is the only team in the country undefeated. The Bulldogs haven’t played a major team in a while. We’ll have to see if that layoff hurts their chances. Illinois will have a seat in the NCAA Tournament.
The Fighting Illini go into Ann Arbor with a record of 18-6. They’re a capable team that could be good for an upset or two in the NCAA Tournament. Illinois is coming off a 74-69 win on the road in an impressive debut at Wisconsin. They are winners in nine of their last ten, the only loss a 81-72 defeat versus Michigan State on February 23. Head below for our free Illinois vs. Michigan pick on March 2, 2021.
Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Michigan Wolverines NCAA Betting Odds:
Illinois vs. Michigan Prediction:
Illinois has been hot, but Michigan has been hotter than the sun since losing against the Golden Gophers in Minnesota. They are on a seven-game winning streak, with a win over Ohio State, 92-87, Iowa, 79-57, and Indiana, 73-57, in their previous three outings. The 92-87 win against the Buckeyes in Columbus was incredibly impressive, and avoiding a letdown spot against a quality Iowa team at home was impressive as well.
Note that Michigan has gone 6-1 ATS in their last seven games, so they’ve been covering spreads, too. Overall on the season, the Wolverines have been a money maker, covering 15 of their 19 games in 2020-21. Michigan has the talent to get it done on both ends of the floor. The combo of center Hunter Dickinson and guard Franz Wagner has lifted the Wolverines to the next level this season.
Dickinson is averaging 14.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, while Wagner has been getting hot recently. He has scored 13.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Wagner is shooting an impressive 53.5% from the field for the Wolverines. The big mismatch in this game has to be Dickinson versus a smaller Illinois lineup. Dickinson should be able to assert his presence nicely in this contest against the Fighting Illini, who could be without Ayo Dosunmu again tonight.
The Wolverines have scored an average of 81.3 points, while allowing 63.8 points per game at home this season. Illinois can score as visitors, having netted 82 points per game on the road this season. However, they’ve been vulnerable defensively, allowing 73.3 points against per contest. The Fighting Illini are going to be at a serious disadvantage defensively in this one. I’m looking at a 82-70 win for Michigan on Tuesday night in Ann Arbor.