Spread: Michigan (-4); Over/Under (140)
January 25th, 2020 11 AM CT- Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI
Michigan Wolverines (11-7, 2-5) This is about as bad a start to 2020 as the Wolverines could have feared, especially considering how the season started. The season started about as good as any player or fan of the Michigan program could have imagined. They finished the month of November a perfect 7-0 including an unexpected run to the Battle for Atlantis championship beating Iowa State, UNC, and Gonzaga along the way. Since the calendar has flipped to January however, Michigan has lost 4 out of 5 with their only win coming by the skin of their teeth in double OT against a Purdue team that has still yet to win a conference road game. Earlier this week they suffered a resume damaging 72-63 home loss to Penn State. The Wolverines have been hurting with 2nd leading scorer Isaiah Livers still out of the line up with a groin injury. In his absence, Michigan has been led by Jon Teske averaging 14.0 PPG with 7.8 rebounds per game along with Zavier Simpson contributing 12.6 PPG and 8.6 assists per game.
Illinois Fighting Illini (14-5, 6-2) After Michigan State’s loss to Indiana on Thursday combined with Illini’s huge 17 point road upset at Purdue, Illinois finds itself tied for 1st place in the Big 10 standings. Opposite of Michigan, since the start of January, Illinois is 5-1 with their only loss coming on the road to Michigan State. Since that game, Illinois is on a 5 game win streak while picking up good road wins at Purdue and Wisconsin along with an increasingly impressive home win over Rutgers. During the win streak, the Fighting Illini have been led by freshman Kofi Cockburn and sophomore Ayo Dosunmu. In the win against Purdue on Tuesday, Cockburn had himself a double-double with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Dosunmu also had a double-double with 18 points and 11 assists. The Illini are well coached and well disciplined, and they rebound the basketball like it’s the most important thing in the world. Illinois outrebounded Michigan 44- 28 in the first matchup where the Illini won the game 71-62.
Prediction: The key matchup in this game will be Jon Teske vs. Kofi Cockburn down low. Teske and the Wolverines will not be able to fully keep Cockburn and the rest of the Illini off the boards, but they need to limit the offensive rebounds and 2nd chance points if they are going to win this game. Unfortunately for the Michigan, Illinois is the best rebounding team in the league and 2nd best overall in the country. Michigan on the other hand, ranks 201st in the country in rebounding. That fact along with the fact that Michigan is not the strongest offensive team (31st in the country), I think it will be difficult to keep up with the scoring or rebounding of the Illini. This is a vital game for Michigan playing at home, but Illinois is playing much better basketball right now and the books are giving them points. Take Illinois +4