GBMWolverine: Michigan Basketball — Illinois at Michigan — Preview
Illinois at Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan — Crisler Center — Crisler Arena
1:00pm – 3:00pm
DirecTV Channel: Local CBS
Up Next: The Fighting Illini
After a long spell of being mostly on the road, Michigan returns to the comfort of home. Michigan is undefeated at home, but more importantly has played well at Crisler.
Illinois provides the opposition in the first of what can be termed bookend games. The two games against Illinois will determine to a large degree Michigan’s standing on the final big board at tournament selection time.
It is no secret that Illinois is a streaky, power-on, power-off type of team. This had been so the last few years. For periods of five to ten minutes the Illini can look as good as any team on the landscape. Then, there are the spurts where the opposite happens. So what will Michigan get? Probably both ends of the spectrum will be in full view Sunday.
So, how good is Illinois? Good enough to beat Ohio State and Michigan State. So what is the other end of the spectrum? The Ilini have lost a few games on the road in the Big Ten that could come back to haunt them. The team has lost five of the last six games and needs some wins to have a chance to advance into the top half of the conference. Bottom line is Illinois has the talent to beat good teams having beat three top 25 teams. And with the losing streak tasting foul, Michigan will need a good effort to win game number 19.
One key for Michigan is to get off to a good start as has happened recently. One way to achieve this goal is at least neutralize the big size advantage Illinois possesses early on. Leonard Meyers, a 7 foot one inch sophomore, is averaging over 13 points a game and it is in Michigan’s interest to hold him down early. If early foul trouble sends Morgan to the bench, look out. Morgan and McLimans, and maybe even Smotzy will spend time trying to throw the big guy off rhythm.A second key may be more hope than strategy. Brandon Paul can lite it up with the best when he is on a roll. Ohio State fans still believe his big game against the Buckeyes was a fluke. Fluke or not this big guard is a big time player that can take over a game against anyone. Douglass may see most of the defensive assignment against Paul, as Novak will almost certainly be inside on defense.
D.J. Richrdson is a solid guard as well and will probably face off against Trey Burke. This is quite a back-court for Illinois, but even with this talent the offense can go into a funk.
Michigan will not change much and will do what we normally see. The height of the big center provides Morgan an opportunity to run the floor and if Illinois misses a series of shots this will almost certainly yield a basket or two. Trey Burke will be working against good guards and will need to be very controlled and make good decisions. Burke being the best option all game would bode less than ideal for Michigan.
This may be the game that Hardaway breaks out of the funk, as he is a better athlete than the Illinois forwards as far as foot speed. Still, even lay-ups must go in the hoop to be effective. Coach Beilein continues to wait the slump out and sooner or later this patience and support should yield dividends. Playing within the flow of the game improved at Nebraska, and even though Hardaway struggled, he contributed in other ways.
This is a good barometer to judge Michigan’s chances of being a top five team in conference play.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff
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