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No. 2 Michigan Looks to Remain Perfect as it Visits Illinois

Michigan vs Illinois Betting Odds

The No. 2 Michigan Wolverines head out on the road for the first time since early December as they invade the State Farm Center to tip off against the Illinois Fighting Illini. Michigan heads into this game a perfect 15-0 on the season, while Illinois is looking to crawl its way out of a four-game losing slide. The Wolverines have won each of the last three games in this rivalry and they are a 9.5-point favorite in tonight’s game with the total opening at 136 points.

Shark Bites
  • The total has gone UNDER in six of Michigan’s last eight games.
  • Illinois is 2-6 SU and 3-5 ATS in its last eight games.
  • Michigan allows the third-fewest points per game in the nation this season (55.6).

Michigan vs Illinois Game Center

Wolverines’ defense continues to punish opponents

A win over Illinois tonight would match Michigan’s best start in school history as it is one of just two undefeated teams remaining in the nation at a perfect 15-0. Over their last 30 games dating back to last season, the Wolverines have just one loss and that came against Villanova 79-62 in the 2018 national championship game, with the 79 points the Wildcats poured in being the most Michigan has given up over that span. The Wolverines got revenge vs the Wildcats this season, earning a dominant 73-46 triumph in mid-November.

The defense is the key to victory for Michigan this year as the team ranks third in the nation by surrendering just 55.6 points per game and limits foes to a 38.9 shooting percentage, the 19th-lowest mark in college basketball. Only one team has broken 70 points against the Wolverines this season – South Carolina was able to drop 78 but still lost 89-78. On the offensive side of the ball, the Wolverines are led by freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis, who is scoring 16.0 points per game. You may be thinking that’s a low total for your leading scorer, well, Michigan is only averaging 72.9 ppg to rank 173rd in the NCAA.

Fighting Illini struggling to keep points off the board

Illinois has been struggling recently, looking for its first victory since December 15, a losing slide of four games. However, the Fighting Illini have been battling, with two of those four defeats coming by just two points, including a heartbreaking loss at Northwestern on Sunday. The Fighting Illini were leading the Wildcats until A.J. Turner hit a three-pointer with 11 seconds remaining to earn Northwestern a 68-66 victory. Offensively, Illinois is scoring 73.4 ppg to rank 159th in college basketball, slightly ahead of Michigan, and is led by sophomore guard Trent Frazier, who is averaging 14.9 points per game.

It is the defense that is having the large issue for Illinois, though, as the Fighting Illini are surrendering an average of 74.4 points per game, which is the 138th-most in the nation. Additionally, their opponents are shooting 46.1 percent from the floor, the 100th-highest percentage. One of the key issues that has led to their foes piling on the points is their poor ball possession as they average 14.5 turnovers per game, the 101st-most in the NCAA.

Is an UNDER in Store for Tonight’s Game?

Michigan and Illinois both rank outside of the top 100 for points allowed per game in the nation and Bovada has tonight’s total opening at 136 points. The Wolverines have gone UNDER in six of their last eight games with an average combined score of 132.75, while the total has gone UNDER in each of the Fighting Illini’s last three games but the average combined score was 138.67. Michigan has shut down high-octane offenses – it held North Carolina, averaging 89.9 ppg, to just 67 points when the two met in late November – and I expect Illinois to be held to fewer than 55 points and I think that will carry the UNDER.

My take on Michigan vs Illinois

I like the Wolverines to cover the 9.5-point spread. Michigan is a perfect 15-0 SU this season and has had an average winning margin of 17.13, winning just three games by fewer than 10 points. Additionally, the Wolverines are surrendering the third-fewest points per game this season, while the Fighting Illini are giving up the 138th-most in the nation, a large disparity that will allow Michigan to cover. Lastly, the Wolverines are 3-0 SU in their last three vs the Fighting Illini with an average winning margin of 13 and its lowest margin of victory being nine points in 2017.

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