The Illinois Fighting Illini will play the #2 Michigan Wolverines at Assembly Hall on Sunday.
The Illini are coming off a nice win against Nebraska that snapped a three-game losing streak. That win was Illinois’ first conference win since defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes on January 5th.
This game against #2 Michigan is the beginning of the Fighting Illini’s toughest string of games this season. In the next five game, they will face four ranked conference foes and two teams that have already beat Illinois (Wisconsin and Minnesota).
The Wolverines are ranked at #2 in the nation with an overall record of 18-1. Their only loss came in conference play against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Michigan is 5-1 in the Big Ten. A win is also key for the Wolverines because they will move to #1 in next week’s polls with a win on Sunday.
Michigan has four players averaging double-digit points so far this season. These players are sophomore Trey Burke (17.8), junior Tim Hardaway Jr. (16.2), freshman Nik Stauskas (12.6), and freshman Glenn Robinson III (12.1).
The MVP of this Wolverines team is no other than Trey Burke. Burke is currently ranked third in the Big Ten with 17.8 points per game this season. However, he does more than just score for his team. Burke also leads the team in assists per game (7.2). The last player to average those kinds of numbers in the Big Ten was Magic Johnson.
The one thing the Wolverines do well is put the ball in the hoop. They are currently ranked second in the Big Ten in scoring offense so far this season. Michigan is averaging 78.7 point per game and have only scored under 60 points once this season (56-53 loss to Ohio State).
Michigan also has four players averaging over five rebounds per game this season. These players are Robinson III (5.9), freshman Mitch McGary (5.6), junior Jordan Morgan (5.4), and Hardaway Jr. (5.3).
Just like Burke, Robinson III and Hardaway can do more than just score. Both players scored double-digits in the team’s win over the Purdue Boilermakers and combined for 13 rebounds.
This will be 160th meeting between the Fighting Illini and the Wolverines. Illinois leads the series 85-74. Michigan won both games against the Illini last season. Illinois scored 61 points in each of the two losses last year.
Unlike most of the Big Ten teams, this is not head coach John Groce’s first game against the Michigan Wolverines. Last March, Groce’s Ohio team pulled off a shocking upset over Michigan in the second round of the national tournament.
Can the Illini win Sunday’s game against Michigan? Yes, but it is going to be tough. Michigan is proving to be a serious contender for the Big Ten championship, but they are beatable.
Trey Burke is a an amazing player, but Illinois has a serious player inBrandon Paul. Paul and Burke are second and third respectively in the conference in scoring. Burke (and even Hardaway Jr.) will score double-digits in the game, but it will come down to if Illinois can outscore Michigan (duh!).
Illinois will need double-digits from Paul, Richardson, Abrams, and Bertrand if they want to win. Not all four need double-digits, but at least three of those players will need double digits if Illinois wants to upset Michigan on Sunday.
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