Illinois Basketball: 5 big questions for the Illini against Michigan

Illinois Fighting Illini forward Quincy Guerrier (13) high-five the Illinois bench after drawing a
Illinois Fighting Illini forward Quincy Guerrier (13) high-five the Illinois bench after drawing a / Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA
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2. Will the Illini be able to stop Michigan’s 3-point shooting?

Even in the bad loss to Maryland, Illinois’ defense was great on the perimeter. For the vast majority of the season, whether win or lose, this has always been a great part of the Illinois basketball team.

Illinois lost by nine points against the Terrapins, but it wasn’t for lack of perimeter defense. Maryland was 4-of-17, 23.5%, against the Illini from three-point range.

The scary part for Illinois on Thursday is the fact Michigan is a great three-point shooting team. So, will the Illini be able to stop the Wolverines from getting hot from distance?

This season, Michigan has relied on the three-point shot a lot. 39.7% of their offensive production comes from the three-point arc. They are super efficient from three-point range as well.

The Wolverines are taking 23.8 three-pointers per game, which ranks No. 95 in the country. Out of the 23.8 three-pointers they are taking, the Wolverines are converting at a clip of 38.3%, which ranks No. 21 in the nation.

On the other side, Illinois is playing some great three-point defense. The Illini are only allowing opponents to shoot 31.4% from three-point range this season. That is good enough to rank No. 76 in the country.

Michigan has three really good three-point shooters. Two of them, Terrence Williams II and Olivier Nkamhoua, are at least 6-foot-7. But Illinois is a really big team. Our entire starting lineup is at least 6-foot-6. I don’t think the Wolverines have matched up against anything like Illinois this season.

My guess is that Illinois will give Michigan trouble with our length. That is what has happened in a lot of games this season. I expect Coleman Hawkins, 6-foot-10, to be on Nkamhoua most of the night. Hawkins can guard the perimeter well. I also see someone like Quincy Guerrier on Williams. Guerrier checks in at 6-foot-8 and might be the most athletic player on the floor for the Illini. This should be a fun matchup to watch.