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Illinois Fighting Illini at Michigan Wolverines Betting Preview

Big Ten rivals will battle it out Sunday as the No. 15 Illinois Fighting Illini (19-8, 12-5 in Big Ten) take on the Michigan Wolverines (15-11, 9-7 in Big Ten). Michigan will host this one at the Crisler Center, with tipoff scheduled for 2:00 pm ET.

Currently third in the Big Ten, Illinois suffered a brutal home loss to No. 22 Ohio State on Thursday, 86-83.

In the loss, guard Alfonso Plummer led the Illini with 26 points. Kofi Cockburn was held to just 12 points in 24 minutes of action.

For Michigan, they are still reeling from the fireworks from last Sunday’s loss to No. 13 Wisconsin, which led to a fight and the eventual suspension of head coach Juwan Howard. Still, the Wolverines were able to bounce back under assistant coach Phil Martelli to beat Rutgers, 71-62.

Caleb Houstan had a game-high 21 points in the win for Michigan. Big man Hunter Dickinson had a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds.

This one is expected to be hotly contested. In fact, initial odds have this as a toss-up as both teams are at -110 to win.

By The Numbers

The Illini have had the stronger of the two offenses this season. They rank 39th in scoring averaging 76.3 points per game (71.2 on the road). Michigan ranks 121st, averaging 72.2 points (74.3 at home).

Defensively, it is again Illinois with the edge. They rank 122nd in scoring defense as they are allowing opponents 67.4 points per game. Michigan ranks 144th allowing 68.4 points per game (65.1 at home).

Illinois Looks To Bounce Back After Tough Loss

The Illini were set up well to contend for the regular-season conference title, but a loss to the Buckeyes on Thursday may have ended those hopes. With just three games left, the Illini sit a game back of both Purdue and Wisconsin.

Still, expect head coach Brad Underwood’s crew to look to bounce back Sunday. This is a squad that has high expectations to make a run in the NCAA tournament, and they will look to get back on track starting with their game against Michigan.

Leading the way for the Illini is big man Kofi Cockburn. A potential Big Ten Player of the Year nominee, Cockburn has averaged 21.2 points and 10.8 rebounds in 22 games.

Other major contributors include Alfonso Plummer (15.1 points, 2.4 rebounds), Trent Frazier (12.4 points, three rebounds, four assists), and Jacob Grandison (10.6 points, four rebounds, 2.4 assists).

Michigan Looking To Get Season Back On Track

Prior to the season, there were high hopes for Michigan. At 15-11, those hopes have largely dissipated. At this point, the Wolverines are fighting for their NCAA tournament lives, and they will need a real strong finish to have a chance.

Additionally, the Wolverines are trying to rewrite the narrative of the program after it suffered a black eye in last week’s postgame melee with Wisconsin. Easier said than done; the Wolverines did a nice job by taking care of business against Rutgers in their last game.

Michigan is led by sophomore center Hunter Dickinson. The 7’1” center is averaging 18 points on 56.1% shooting. He is also adding 8.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.3 blocks per game.

With both teams’ stars being in the interior, the Dickinson versus Cockburn matchup should be a great one.

Aside from Dickinson, Eli Brooks (12.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, three assists) and Caleb Houstan (10.3 points, 4.2 rebounds) are the Wolverines’ next-best scoring options.

Take Illinois To Win On The Road

While Michigan has been solid at home this season, and they have more on the line with Illinois already being a shoe-in for the NCAA tournament, this one just comes down to consistency.

The Illini are not without their faults, but they have played more consistently than the Wolverines have all season.

Additionally, while they were able to rally for a win under interim head coach Phil Martelli in the first game following Howard’s suspension, it still presents another hurdle for the Wolverines down the stretch.

Michigan will have its hands full over its last four games and expect them to get off to a rough start on Sunday against Illinois.

While it may not be as ugly as the 68-53 win that Illinois had back on January 14 over Michigan, taking the Illini to pick up the road victory is still the smarter bet.

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