Two teams that are looking to secure spots in the NCAA Tournament will face off on Thursday night as the Michigan Wolverines visit the Illinois Fighting Illini in a Big Ten matchup.
Michigan (17-12) has won three straight to keep itself in the March Madness conversation. On the other hand, Illinois (19-10) suffered a 72-60 loss to Ohio State on Sunday to keep the Illini on the bubble.
Both teams need this game badly if they want to stay on the path to hearing their names on Selection Sunday. We’ll break down how this critical matchup will play out in our college basketball betting picks for Michigan vs. Illinois below.
Michigan vs Illinois best odds
Michigan vs Illinois picks and predictions
Neither the Illinois Fighting Illini nor the Michigan Wolverines can feel completely comfortable with where they stand as we head into March.
The Illini are in a slightly better spot, with Joe Lunardi of ESPN currently listing them as a No. 9 seed in the tournament, while the Wolverines are on his “First Four Out” list, but the situation is clear: neither team can afford to lose winnable games down the stretch.
Michigan was pretty much out of the running for March until it put together a three-game winning streak that culminated in an 87-79 overtime win at home vs. Wisconsin. Hunter Dickinson likely kept the Wolverines alive with a buzzer-beating three that forced overtime and eventually led to the win.
That final makes it look like Michigan played a shootout with the Badgers. In reality, they went into overtime tied at 68 before a wild extra period in which the Wolverines outscored their opponents 19-11.
Generally speaking, Michigan has played at a fairly average pace this year and has been solid on defense, holding opponents to just 68.7 points per game and 32.1% from behind the line.
That could match up well with Illinois. The Illini have shot just 31% from 3-point range this year, one of the worst marks in the country. Over the past five games, Illinois has been even worse from deep, shooting just 25.8% from downtown.
Illinois has lost three of five during that stretch, including rough losses to Ohio State and Penn State. The Illini have only managed to score as many as 70 points once in their last four games, with their defense — always the strength of this team — coming up big to grab a few wins and prevent the season from entirely falling apart down the stretch.
That brings us to tonight’s game. We can expect a close contest, with Illinois having a slight edge as the home team, but I’m more interested in looking at the total, which I think is off by several points given what we know about these teams.
Right now, the total sits at around 144.5 points. That’s higher than the average total either of these teams has played to this season, even when we consider some wild overtime games on each side that have padded those numbers. Illinois may play at a relatively fast pace, but it also can’t shoot the ball well enough to put up big numbers, especially as of late.
Both teams have a lot to play for tonight, which should add defensive intensity to a game that’s already set up to come in below the number. The numbers alone have me happy to take the Under, and the situation only makes me more confident.
My best bet: Under 144.5 (-110 at FanDuel)
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Michigan vs Illinois spread analysis
Illinois opened tonight as a 3.5-point favorite. The spread has been trending in the Illini’s favor, and Michigan +4.5 is now the most common line at sportsbooks.
Illinois has been very good against the spread this year, putting up a 17-12 ATS record. Michigan has also overperformed against the number, going 15-13-1 ATS on the season.
The Illini have been the slightly better team this season, and that evaluation rides into tonight’s game. My one concern is that Illinois seems to have gone cold from 3-point range, and for a team that’s never been good at shooting, that could be a huge problem as it tries to stay above the cut line for March Madness.
Michigan is riding a bit of a high off that overtime win on Sunday, not to mention much more convincing victories over Michigan State and Rutgers. The Wolverines have become far more balanced on offense, getting big performances out of guards Kobe Bufkin and Dug McDaniel in recent days.
My one concern for Michigan is that second-leading scorer Jett Howard (14.4 ppg) is questionable tonight with an ankle injury. Still, I think there’s a little value on the Wolverines and the points.
Even better, I like Michigan on the moneyline, as while this would be an upset victory for the Wolverines, I’m happy with the +180 line I can get on them to win outright at some books.
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Michigan vs Illinois Over/Under analysis
The total on tonight’s game has stayed relatively stable at 144.5 points, though some books have dropped the hook and moved the Over/Under to a flat 144.
In either case, I’ve already talked about why I think that number is significantly higher than it should be as neither of these teams regularly plays to totals that high.
Throw in Illinois’ recent scoring struggles and the general trend of Big Ten matchups to be slightly lower-scoring than you might expect, along with the importance of tonight’s game to both teams, and I think we’ll see this one come in Under the total.
Neither team is trending badly for this pick, either. The Illini have hit the Under in seven of their past 10 games and have only gone Over a total of 140 in three of those contests. Michigan has gone to the Under in three of its last five and has come in Under tonight’s total in regulation four times in that span — though the overtime game against Wisconsin eventually went much higher.
There’s just nothing to push me toward even considering the Over tonight, which makes this a fairly straightforward pick. Take the Under in what should be a close, hard-fought game between these two bubble teams.
Michigan vs Illinois betting trend to know
The Under is 4-1 in Michigan’s last five road games. Find more college basketball betting trends for Michigan vs. Illinois.
Michigan vs Illinois game info
||State Farm Center, Champaign, IL
||Thursday, March 2, 2023
||7:00 p.m. ET
Michigan vs Illinois key injuries
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