Feb 16, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Caris LeVert (23) reacts during the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Crisler Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan Basketball: Michigan at Illinois -- Preview

GBMWolverine Basketball TidbitsPosted at 9:00am — 3/4/2014

Michigan Basketball: Michigan at Illinois — Preview

Another Hot Big Ten Team

It is probably fat too late for Illinois to be considered for the NCAA Tournament, but Coach John Groce will be preaching the philosophy of you never know, don’t quit, we need to get better for the future, and so on, to his troops. Illinois is 17-12 overall, thanks to a late season three-game win streak and four out of the last five. However, the Illini went through a stretch of eight straight league losses. Still, two more wins to end the season, and two more wins in the tournament (very doable) could transfer Illinois from never-never-land to consideration. Twenty-one wins would be hard to ignore, but so would the sub .500 league record.

As mentioned in other articles and posts, the author believes Illinois has improved the guard play, and as a direct result the offense has become better. Rayvonte Rice is a big, physical guard that is getting it done with scoring and better game management. He is hitting nearly 16 points a game. Tracy Abrams, another junior guard is averaging 11 points a game. The third best scorer is Joseph Bertrand, another guard.

The inside guys are big enough to cause some problems for Michigan. Junior center Nnanna Egwu is a 6-11 junior from Chicago that may not be dominating in some games, but is the type of presence that can give Michigan trouble. Jon Ekey is a 6’ 7” graduate student. Both can rebound but are not averaging double figures in scoring.

It is senior night and two seniors will be honored in the final regular season game. The usual emotions will be flying and Michigan just flat out needs to be ready. The reward for a win is a regular season championship. The award for a loss is to play a hornet-nest Hoosiers team fighting for a chance at the Big Dance.

Jan 4, 2014; Champaign, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach John Groce during the second half against the Penn State Nittany Lions at State Farm Center. Illinois defeated Penn State 75-55. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Groce is excellent at defensive preparation. Like many teams lately, he will make the perimeter game of Michigan difficult to execute. Michigan would be wise to go to option 2 early and try and get inside for easy scores. Illinois has size at guard, but maybe not as much quickness. Illinois finally gets to play a small team where the bigs can come into play. Look for Groce to run options that pound the ball at Morgan and Horford to pick up points and fouls.

Remember in the article a week ago on the four trap games: mental toughness and focus will tell the tale. This would be a big win in program history. When Illinois has lost, it is because of offensive woes caused by opponents’ good defense. If Michigan wants to win, the defense demonstrated against Minnesota, at the minimum, must be executed.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Doc4Blu

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