Friday College Basketball Odds, Picks & Predictions: Michigan Wolverines vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Betting Preview
Rich Schultz/Getty Images. Pictured: Juwan Howard
- Michigan travels to Illinois in desparate need of a victory in Big Ten play.
- The Wolverines have lost two games in a row and are 1-2 in Big Ten play.
- Tanner McGrath breaks down the matchup below and offers up his best bet.
Michigan vs. Illinois Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Friday is a relatively stale night in college hoops, but we do get one standalone power conference game at 9 p.m.
The Wolverines have been underperforming and all-around underwhelming. Meanwhile, Illinois has finally gotten hot after a similarly underwhelming start to the season.
Given the Wolverines’ woes, Michigan is catching nearly double digits in this matchup. But is it worth backing Juwan Howard and Co. right now?
Michigan was ranked as high as No. 4 in some preseason polls. But the Wolverines have now lost three of their last four, including a wire-to-wire defeat at the hands of Rutgers.
So far, the Wolverines are just 7-6 and have only one KenPom top-120 win.
So, what’s gone wrong for the Wolverines so far?
The roster turnover hasn’t been pretty for Michigan. While he’s shown streaks of scoring ability, Devante Jones has not seamlessly transitioned into his new role. That’s especially noticeable after how well Mike Smith played last season.
Meanwhile, the wing play has taken a big drop off. It’s hard to replace what Isaiah Livers and Franz Wagner did last season, and relying on freshman Caleb Houstan to replace that production hasn’t been the best formula.
But after a great recruiting offseason, the Wolverines are still full of talent. And Howard is still an excellent coach.
The hope is that Michigan isn’t irrelevant when March rolls around.
Illinois is now on a dominant five-game winning streak. The Illini won every matchup by double-digits and finished the streak 4-1 ATS.
Kofi Cockburn is Illinois’ unquestioned leader, and he’s building a Wooden Award resume. As the Illini’s highest-usage player, he leads the team in points (22 PPG) and rebounds (12.5 RPG), putting up double-doubles on a nightly basis.
KOFI COCKBURN IS TOO STRONGpic.twitter.com/gS9JwX5EcJ
— PointsBet Sportsbook (@PointsBetUSA) January 7, 2022
It’s unfortunate to say, but Andre Curbelo being injured has helped this team. The back-court tandem of Alfonso Plummer and Trent Frazier are both playing outstanding, specifically on the offensive end. Frazier put up 29 points, five assists, and four steals in the most recent win over Nebraska.
Illinois wants to remain undefeated in conference play, but will also be looking to build momentum. Brad Underwood is staring down a massive matchup with Purdue on Monday.
Michigan vs. Illinois Betting Pick
Could this be a tiny sandwich spot for Illinois?
The Illini are red-hot, but they could be caught sleeping as almost 10-point favorites. Howard will almost certainly have a game-plan for Cockburn, likely revolving around all-world center Hunter Dickinson.
Plus, Michigan has had a 10-day COVID break to implement that game plan. You may be tempted to fade a team following a break, but that narrative hasn’t always been accurate.
Ten points is always too many in a nitty-gritty Big Ten battle, especially between two teams this talented. I’ll be on the Wolverines at anything better than +9.