Super Tuesday brings us a top-5 showdown in the Big Ten as the no. 2 Michigan Wolverines play host to the no. 4 Illinois Fighting Illini with tip-off at 7 pm EST. The Wolverines are an 8-point favorite at home, with the over/under set at 147 points.
Not even a COVID-related pause has been able to slow down Michigan. All the Wolverines have done since not playing a game for more than three weeks is win five straight games, including a pair of double-digit victories over Iowa and Indiana over the past week. At this point, Michigan is all but assured a no. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, while a win on Tuesday will help lock up the Big Ten title for the Wolverines.
Of course, Illinois is the only team that can overtake Michigan for the Big Ten regular-season crown. With a 14-4 conference record, the Illini remain just one game behind Michigan, so a win on Tuesday keeps them in contention. Plus, with nine wins in their last ten games, Illinois is still in the running for a no. 1 seed in the Big Dance.
Unfortunately for the Fighting Illini, they will play Tuesday’s game without leading scorer Ayo Dosunmu, sidelined until the Big Ten Tournament because of a broken nose. To their credit, Illinois has beaten both Nebraska and Wisconsin without Dosunmu. However, his absence is a huge loss for the Illini and a big reason why the betting line has ballooned to eight points for this matchup.
Without Dosunmu, there will be a lot more pressure on center Kofi Cockburn, who has been the best big man in the Big Ten this season outside of Iowa’s Luka Garza. He already has eight games of 20 or more points this season and will likely need a big game against the Wolverines. Of course, Trent Frazier, Adam Miller, and Andre Curbelo will also have to step up in Dosunmu’s absence. Curbelo did that on Saturday against Wisconsin, but Frazier and Miller have had multiple subpar outings over the last two weeks and need to come alive.
Meeting Size with Size
Michigan is one of the few teams in the country with a big man who can match up against Cockburn. Hunter Dickinson is 7’1’’ and has put together an exceptional freshman season. He’s currently Michigan’s leading scorer and is averaging 14 points per game in the five games since the Wolverines returned from their hiatus. Senior Austin Davis also gives Michigan another option to defend Cockburn in the post.
Meanwhile, the Wolverines have a lot more scoring than what Dickinson provides in the post. Isaiah Livers averages 14.5 points per game, while Franz Wagner has scored 13.3 points per game this season. The trio of Mike Smith, Eli Brooks, and Chaundee Brown all average eight points per game, with each of the three veteran guards capable of scoring more than that on a given night.
Without Dosunmu, the Illini will be fighting an uphill battle all night. Illinois is hoping its supporting cast can step up while the Wolverines have a far more reliable set of complementary players. Michigan also has more star power and the size to slow down Cockburn in the paint. Bet on Michigan to win and cover against the Illini.
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