2008-2009 Season

Game 17: Michigan at Illinois Preview

: Michigan (13-3) at Illinois (14-2)
Where: Assembly Hall, Champaign, IL
When: Wednesday, January 14th 8:30 ET
Last Meeting:  Michigan 74-64 — Post-Game, Preview
Spread: ILL by 6.5
Preview: Stat Sheet, U-M KenPom Profile, Illinois KenPom Profile
Radio: MGoBlue, WWJ-AM (950), WTKA-AM (1050)

Michigan heads to the other Assembly Hall to try and break an identical streak to the one they snapped in Bloomington last week. Michigan’s odds of pulling off a road win this week aren’t nearly as high as they were last week because Illinois looks to be a legitimate upper tier Big Ten team and they are going to want revenge.

“It’s definitely fresh in our minds,” senior guard Trent Meacham said. “They got a lot of guys that can shoot it. Not one of the guys hesitates to shoot the three. It makes it tough. They have different matchups and they cause mismatches. But we can do the same thing. Hopefully, we can make them pay for playing small.”

Illinois played only one game in the 10 days since their loss in Ann Arbor, a 76-45 drubbing of Indiana at home. Clearly this team isn’t going to be drastically different than the one we all saw in Ann Arbor 10 days ago, Illinois is still the same mid range jump shot shooting team that plays good defense. This game is going to come down to who can make the right adjustments, I usually like Beilein in this type of coaching battle. Last year three of Michigan’s five conference wins were in Michigan’s second meeting with a team and this year we managed to make the right adjustments against Duke, the only team we have played twice.

To win on the road, Michigan is going to need a defensive effort like the one they brought in the second half of the first Illinois game where they held the Illini to only 25 points on 33% shooting.  If they lose cutters and give up easy looks like they did in the first half the game will get out of hand quickly. Calvin Brock has been a constant thorn in Michigan’s side, they need to limit him and make Illinois earn all their points.

This one comes down to a battle of big versus small. Illinois wants to go big as much as possible and utilize Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis while Michigan wants to go small and spread the floor. In the first meeting, Bruce Weber was forced to match Michigan and only play one of his big men because Tisdale just didn’t have the speed to hang with Michigan’s quickness, even Zack Gibson beat him baseline for a slam. The two Illinois big men combined for only 17 points and 8 rebounds in the first meeting, I think Michigan would settle for this type of production again.

Offensively, Michigan played a very solid game in the first meeting but there were certainly a few things they could have done better. Chester Frazier and company did a very good job against Manny Harris and really kept him out of his game. I think Michigan is going to need Manny’s A+ game tonight if they are going to have a shot. Novak had a big game in the first meeting before being KO’d and forcing Gibson to step up. I am hoping Novak can get some revenge for those stitches in Champaign. This is a tough one for Sims because he is going up against guys that are bigger than him, the key is to force the Illinois bigs outside of their comfort zone on defense and make them guard you away from the block.

The guy who really killed Michigan last game was Demetri McCamey, McCamey had 11 points to go along with 10 assists, 0 turnovers, and 5 boards. McCamey is a tough match up for Michigan, a big point guard, but even McCamey had trouble hanging with Grady late in the game. Michigan has to hope McCamey doesn’t get hot with those line-drive three pointers early and try to contain him.

I really think that this is a game Illinois will win in a pretty comfortable fashion because Michigan has yet to prove they can win on the road. Assembly Hall is a tough place to play, and this Illinois teams wants to avenge a win that is still fresh on their minds. The key for Michigan is to stay cool and collected, play the game in 4 minute intervals, and just stay close to have a shot at the end. Stealing a road win here would go a long ways but this is one of Michigan’s toughest remaining games. Pomeroy puts the odds at only 16% and considers it Michigan’s third toughest game remaining.

Let’s hear your thoughts, predictions, and comments.

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