Well, after one disappointing loss on Sunday the Illini look to bounce back in their last regular season game at home Thursday night vs. the hated Michigan Wolverines.
Michigan is looking for a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament, currently sitting at 11-7 in conference play, but just 17-12 overall. Winners of 6 of their last 8, Michigan is playing itself into contention for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
The Wolverines are led by one of the favorite players that Illini fans love to hate in 7-foot-1 junior Hunter Dickinson, averaging a team-leading 17.4 points per game and 8.6 rebounds per game.
Hopefully Dain Dainja has some time to heal up after his fall last Monday against Minnesota and can get back to usual self because he is going to be needed to help slow down Dickinson defensively and make him work on the other end of the court.
Michigan also has 6-foot-8 freshman Jett Howard, the son of the head coach Juwan Howard, who is averaging 14.4 points per game and is predicted by ESPN to be a 2024 lottery pick.
The Wolverines’ third player to watch is 6-foot-4 sophomore Kobe Bufkin, who is averaging 12.9 points per game and is predicted by by ESPN to be a 2023 lottery pick.
Michigan has the No. 2 scoring offensive in the Big Ten, averaging 71.8 points per game and shooting at 45%. Defensively, Michigan gives up 66.5 points per game, which ranks sixth best in the league.
Howard’s team is also strong on the boards with a plus 2.43 rebounding margin per game which is right behind the Illini for third best in the conference.
For the Illini to win, they must slow down the big three of Dickinson, Howard and Bufkin, and not fall behind by double-digits in the first half. Michigan is a hot team playing its best basketball of the year, and the Illini are going to need the State Farm Center rocking like it was against Northwestern last week.
Dickinson, Howard and rest of the Wolverines would like nothing better than to spoil Senior Day for the Illini and grab their first win against the Orange and Blue.