#756 University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign Illinivs.#755 University of Michigan Wolverines
Wednesday, January 1 2017, at 9:00pm EST
Written by Chuck D
Michigan Wolverines 11-5 (4-9 ATS) at Illinois Fighting Illini 11-5 (6-7 ATS)
When and Where: Wednesday, Jan. 11, State Farm Center, Champaign, Ill. 9:00pm EST (BTN)
Spread: Michigan -3; Total: 137
Two teams that are virtual mirror images of each other square off on Wednesday night in Champaign. Not only do both Michigan and Illinois have identical 11-5 overall records, but each squad comes into the contest with a 1-2 mark in conference play. To top it off, both schools come into the game having won four of their last six with their lone Big Ten wins sandwiched by losses. The Illini lead the all-time series 86-81 and 55-27 at home, but the Wolverines have won two in a row head-to-head.
Michigan fell just three times during non-conference play. After acing out to a 4-0 start that included wins over Marquette and SMU, they dropped two of three with the losses coming against South Carolina in Virginia Tech. They rebounded after that closing out the non-Big Ten slate by winning five of six and the lone setback coming against UCLA. Perhaps what is telling about the losses though, is the fashion they came in. In the road game vs. the Gamecocks, UM managed to score just 46 points in the 15-point loss. In the trip to Los Angeles they were beaten soundly from start to finish in a 97-53 defeat. League play has not gone soundly either. They started things off with a three-point loss at Iowa before rebounding with a three-point win at home vs. Penn State. In their last outing they welcomed Maryland into Ann Arbor and fell 77-70.
Mortiz Wanger scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half in Michigan’s loss to Maryland, but it was not enough as the team fell at home for the first time since Nov. 30. Zak Irvin scored 15 as well but had five of the teams nine turnovers. D.J. Wilson was a perfect 3-for-3 from distance and scored 13 in defeat. The team has committed 10 or fewer turnover in 11 of their 16 contests this season. Derrick Walton Jr. leads the league from the charity stripe, making 91.8 percent of his free throws. The team offered walk-on Andrew Dokich a scholarship this week in interesting fashion.
The non-conference slate started off well enough for Illinois as they raced out of the gates with four straight wins before enduring three losses in a row, Fortunately fir the Illini, those were their only setbacks outside of the Big Ten play. The defeats came at the hands of Winthrop, West Virginia and Florida State. The squad loss their conference opener at Maryland 84-59, but bounced back with a 75-70 win over Ohio State. Against Indiana the team got ambushed and before they knew it they were down 13-0 just six minutes in. By halftime Illinois was was down 48-29 as the Hoosiers never looked back en route to the 96-80 win.
Malcolm Hill scored 19 of his 21 points in the second half against Indiana and passed Andy Kaufmann for 10th place on the program’s all-time scoring list. Jalen Coleman-Lands hit five shots from beyond the arc while scoring 21 points in defeat. Maverick Morgan pitched in 18 points. Hill has now scored at least 20 points in four straight games. The squad has lost 10 of their last 11 contests to Michigan.
These teams are really very similar so for the home side to be giving up points seems a big odd here. The home team is 23-10 ATS in the last 33 meetings between the two schools and this is an Illinois squad that took down a talented Ohio State squad in conference play already. This is closer to a pick’em and as such you should take advantage of the Fighting Illini getting points here.
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Chuck Dowling is a 30-something University of Florida J-School alum that lives in his mother’s basement. Just kidding... there are no basements in Florida (the ground is too moist). He has been in the “biz” for his entire adult life and specializes in NCAA football and basketball, as well as soccer, boxing, and MMA. When not writing, Chuck moonlights as a high school athletics radio and internet-television broadcaster.