NCAA Basketball: Michigan/Illinois Preview, Odds and Prediction - 03/02/2021

by Alec McMordie

An ESPN Super Tuesday triple-header is headlined by a Big Ten heavyweight battle between teams two of the top four teams in the country.

Illinois has won nine of their last ten games after they defeated Wisconsin on the road, 74-69, as a 4.5-point underdog on Saturday. Kofi Cockburn scored 19 points to lead the Fighting Illini. The 7’0 sophomore averages 17.7 points-per-game while adding 9.9 rebounds-per-game.

Brad Underwood was without Ayo Dosunmu for the second-straight game in the triumph against the Badgers. The junior point guard is out indefinitely with a broken nose. He is averaging 21.0 points-per-game, 6.3 rebounds-per-game, and 5.3 assists-per-game. Dosunmu and Cockburn were two of five returning starters from the team last year that finished 21-10.

Illinois ranks fourth in the nation by the Associated Press with an 18-6 record. The Illini earned an impressive non-conference victory against Duke in December. Underwood’s team is second in the Big Ten with a 14-4 mark with wins against Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue, and Indiana (twice). Illinois has conference losses to Ohio State, Michigan State, Rutgers, and Maryland and non-conference losses to Baylor and Missouri.

The Fighting Illini are tenth in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. They rank 19th nationally with both a 38.1% shooting percentage from 3-point land and a 55.7% mark inside the arc. Illinois is sixteenth nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency using the kenpom metrics. They limit their opponents to rebounding 22.4% of their missed shots, 15th nationally. Their opponents make 45.1% of their 2-point shots, ranking 22nd nationally.

Michigan has won seven in a row after their 73-57 victory at Indiana on Saturday. Franz Wagner scored a season-high 21 points. The sophomore is scoring 13.3 points-per-game and grabbing 6.4 rebounds-per-game. Isaiah Livers added 16 points with 10 rebounds. The senior is averaging 14.5 points-per-game and 6.2 rebounds-per-game. He has scored at least 16 points in five of his last seven games. Hunter Dickinson contributed another 13 points and seven rebounds. The freshman is scoring 14.8 points-per-game and pulling down 7.8 rebounds-per-game.

The Wolverines rank second in the nation with an 18-1 record. A victory tonight clinches them the Big Ten regular-season title. Michigan has a 13-1 conference record with wins against Iowa, Ohio State, Wisconsin (twice), and Maryland (twice). Their lone loss was at Minnesota in January.

Michigan ranks fifth in adjusted offensive efficiency according to the metrics at kenpom. The Wolverines are 22nd with a 55.4% shooting percentage inside the arc, which helps elevate their effective field goal percentage to 56.5%, twelfth nationally. They are making 39.0% of their 3-point shots, ranking 11th nationally. Michigan registers an assist in 55.7% rate of their made field goals, 78th nationally. Only 6.4% of their shot attempts are getting blocked, 20th nationally.

The Wolverines are fourth in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They are second in opponent’s effective field goal percentage with a 43.9% mark. Michigan is also second nationally by limiting their opponents to just 41.3% shooting inside the arc. These opponents make 32.7% of their 3-pointers, 117th nationally. This team does not foul as they rank 21st nationally in foul-rate. They block 11.6% of their opponent’s shots, 43rd nationally. They hold their opponents to just a 41.5% assist rate, 8th nationally.

This showdown is the first meeting between these two teams this season. BetAnySports lists Michigan as a 7-point favorite with the total set at 144.5.

Computer prediction: Michigan 75 Illinois 68

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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