Michigan vs. Illinois Top Picks for Thursday: A Showdown of Disappointment

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Coleman Hawkins #33 of the Illinois Fighting Illini reacts against the Ohio State Buckeyes on February 26, 2023. Dylan Buell/Getty Images/AFP.

NCAAB Pick: Illinois -3.5 (-105) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Illinois -3.5 (-105)
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It has been a disappointing season for both Michigan and Illinois, but that isn’t stopping us from releasing a free college basketball pick for their Thursday collision in Champaign.

Michigan Wolverines vs. Illinois Fighting Illini

Thursday, March 02, 2023 – 07:00 PM EST at State Farm Center

Man has yet to invent an instrument to accurately measure disappointment, but if such a device existed, two college basketball teams that would be pegging the meter out would be the Michigan Wolverines and Illinois Fighting Illini.

Top 25 teams in the preseason and top contenders in the Big Ten according to the college basketball futures, Michigan is currently on the dreaded bubble to go dancing while Illinois is sliding down the brackets as the rivals get ready to battle Thursday night in Champaign.

There is more riding on the outcome of this game than there is time to run through the list, but at the very top of the chart is the fact it’s not a stretch to say the Wolverines and Fighting Illini are playing for their ever-loving March Madness lives.

Overnight Action on Maize & Blue

We’ve seen some healthy line movement on this contest at BetOnline where Illinois opened -5 before being bet down to -3.5. Most shops are carrying the spread at -4 on their morning lines and the total can be found from 143.5 to 144.5.

Wolverines Split Covers in Last 4 B1G Roadies

If you Google ‘Michigan Wolverines’ right now, chances are most of the articles to pop up are going to be about the football team in Ann Arbor, and that’s got to be frustrating to the hoopsters who have won three in a row just to maintain a spot on the bubble.

Maybe the biggest of those three wins came a little more than a week ago at Rutgers where the Wolverines defied the college basketball odds to beat the Scarlet Knights 58-45 in a physical, defensive battle as 6-point underdogs.

There’s no question the most exciting of the three wins came last Sunday at home against rival Wisconsin. Having blown a 10-point lead early in the second half, Michigan got a desperation 3-pointer from Hunter Dickinson at the buzzer to force overtime. The Wolverines dominated OT for the 87-79 win as 6-point chalk.

Jett Howard missed both of those games with a right ankle injury. The freshman is listed as questionable for Thursday’s tilt, but his father and head coach Juwan Howard hinted Jett was close to returning last Sunday against Wisconsin.

Illini Still Struggling From 3-Point Land

Some of the disappointment in Champaign is due to inconsistency, and some of that may have come with the territory of the three big transfers Brad Underwood scored for Illinois: Terrence Shannon Jr., Matthew Mayer, and Dain Dainja.

All three are among the Fighting Illini’s top 5 scorers, with Shannon and Mayer 1-2, respectively. However, it hasn’t been a smooth transition from the Big 12 to the Big Ten for all three.

Speaking of the number three, shooting 3-pointers has also been an issue for Illinois. It certainly was last Sunday in Columbus where Ohio State posted a 72-60 win as a 4-point home underdog at the best sportsbooks. The Fighting Illini shot 6-of-29 (21%) from beyond the arc, below their season average of 31% which ranks 327th nationally.

Rivalry Notes & Betting Trends

This is the one and only scheduled meeting between the Wolverines and Fighting Illini this season, and it has been one of the most level rivalries in college basketball over the years with Illinois holding a 92-85 edge after winning the last five clashes.

Last season’s matchup at State Farm Center ended in a 68-53 Illinois victory as Kofi Cockburn recorded a double-double while the Fighting Illini defense harassed the Wolverines into an awful evening of shooting to cover as 10-point chalk.

  • Illinois has covered all 5 wins in the current streak, 2 of those as a home favorite.
  • The teams have split the last 12 meetings, with 8 of those games ending in at least a 10-point margin of victory.
  • Michigan’s last win in the series came in Champaign in January 2019, a 79-69 final with the Wolverines laying 8.

Orange & Blue the Play at Home

Illinois may sit higher in the currently projected NCAA Tournament seedings right now, but Michigan has more control over its Big Ten seeding. If the Wolverines win their final two, they are guaranteed a top 4 seed in the conference, and byes in the first two rounds.

The Fighting Illini are in a three-way tie for seventh entering tonight’s game and can still move up to a top 4 slot, but they need to win out plus get some help. Despite their poor shooting from outside, being inside their own arena should provide the Fighting Illini with enough lift to win and cover, with the final just coming up short.

For Fighting Illini fans looking to bet on this game, you can do it at our top Illinois betting sites.

NCAAB Pick: Illinois -3.5 (-105) at BetOnline

*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.