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NCAAB: Illinois vs. Michigan odds, preview, and pick

Profile Picture: Dan Halverson

March 1st, 2021

Few NCAA conferences can boast the quality and depth of the Big Ten. With four teams in the top 10, and six in the top 14 KenPom efficiency rankings, college basketball's oldest conference is having a banner year.

On Tuesday night, the top two teams in the conference clash as the Illinois Fighting Illini take on the Michigan Wolverines in a game that will likely decide the regular season title.

Wed, March 3 2021, 12:00 AM

Michigan

Moneyline

-305

Spread

-7

Total

O 145.5

Illinois

Moneyline

+240

Spread

+7

Total

U 145.5

Michigan is rolling 

The Wolverines have emerged as a national title contender by excelling on both ends of the court. They scored 92 points in a victory over the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes, and held No. 9 Iowa to just 57 points in their next game. They are now 18-1 on the season, with the lone defeat at Minnesota looking like a complete aberration.

Center Hunter Dickinson has been an unstoppable force and leads the team in points, rebounds, and blocks per game. His strength allows him to get excellent position offensively, and he finishes around the rim with confidence.

Defensively, he keeps opposing centers pushed away from the basket and has the height to challenge every shot. A solid rim protector that is third in the conference in blocks per game, Dickinson’s presence in the paint allows his teammates to take risks on the perimeter. The result is the best defense in the conference.

Illinois is not at full strength

The Fighting Illini have had a pleasantly surprising season of their own, climbing to No. 5 nationally behind their two stars, Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. Unfortunately for the Illini, Dosunmu is still dealing with a broken nose, and his availability is questionable as head coach Brad Underwood presumably would like his All-American guard to be fully healed entering the NCAA Tournament.

Dosunmu’s status completely changes the dynamics of this matchup. Although he hopes to play on Tuesday, don't be surprised if his minutes are limited.

All eyes will be on Cockburn and Dickinson

Illinois has benefitted in 2020-21 from the emergence of Kofi Cockburn. The sophomore center is averaging 17.7 points and 9.9 rebounds per game, and has the size to be a tough matchup for Michigan’s Dickinson. This will be the first meeting between these two this year, and it will be the most watchable part of this game.

While they battle in the paint, however, Michigan is poised to win nearly every other matchup, especially if Dosmunu is compromised. The Wolverines are streaking at the moment, and should overpower the Fighting Illini with relative ease.

Score prediction: Michigan 80, Illinois 70

NCAAB pick: Michigan

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