Game Preview: Basketball at Illinois

The Michigan Men’s Basketball team has the chance to do something that has not happened in Ann Arbor since the days of the Fab Five.

Michigan (18-1, 5-1 B1G) takes their show on the road to Champaign, Illinois to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini (15-5, 2-4 B1G) on Sunday night

With a win, the Wolverines will likely be the top ranked team in the country when the polls are released Monday.

Gone are the days of Bruce Weber in Champaign, where new coach John Groce runs the program now.

John Beilein’s #2 ranked Wolverines do have a bit of recent history with Groce. The last time we saw him, he led 13th-seeded Ohio to an upset victory over Michigan in the second round of last year’s NCAA tournament.  I won’t go as far as saying John Groce has their number,  but he has a blueprint on how to take down the Wolverines.

Illinois is coming off a 71-51 win at Nebraska and will be looking to carry that momentum home with them as they take on the Wolverines.

I don’t see Michigan having as tough a time in this game as they did early against Purdue. Obviously, a big key will be quieting the Illini crowd early on, but the Wolverines definitely have the goods to do this.

Not much more needs to be said about National Player of The Year candidate Trey Burke. If you haven’t seen him play yet, check your pulse. As he goes, so do the Wolverines. As for his sidekick, Tim Hardaway Jr., he also has a great history against this team. The last time they met in Champaign, he scored 25 points in a 72-61 win.

One of their main objectives for Michigan in this game will be to shut down Illini senior guard Brandon Paul. He is currently second in the Big Ten in scoring at 18 points per game.  In the previous matchup with the Wolverines, Paul was able to score 21 in a losing effort.

As I have stated in the past, something that concerns me about Michigan is their perimeter defense. It was something that dug them a huge hole in the Ohio State game.  Illinois started the season 12-0, due in large part to their outside shooting. They have struggled from 3-point range since then.  If Michigan does not guard the perimeter well, they will be allowing the Illini to hang around. On the road, that is very dangerous, especially with as big a target on their back as there is.

Every game in the Big Ten means something this year, and this one will be no different. If it turns into a shootout, it has the potential to be one of the better games of this conference season.  When the chips are down, though, I have the confidence that Michigan wins this game and won’t be surprised if they do it in convincing fashion.

The game tips at 6pm on Big Ten Network.

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