The first two meetings between Michigan and Illinois this year were mirror images. The road team led each game at the halftime break before letting the game slip away down the stretch. Now it is time for the rubber match on a neutral court. I can’t think of a better way to settle the score.
Michigan appears to be playing their best basketball down the stretch while Illinois’ season ended in what can’t be called anything other than disappointment as they fell out of the conference championship race losing 3 of their last 5 games. Michigan has already played a game in Conseco so they will be used to the environment and DeShawn Sims thinks this is an advantage:
“I think if an upper seed sees a team compete like we competed against Iowa, it would want to have played a game first,” said Sims, who scored the Wolverine’s first 14 points. “It’s hard to play in tournaments when a team has already played and they’re already loose.”
The final developing story is that Chester Frazier is doubtful with a “severely bruised hand”. Frazier only scored 6 points combined in the first two meetings but he played 66 minutes and is one of the best defenders in the conference and his absence will be felt by the Illini. Here is a good article about the Frazier injury with quotes from Bruce Weber, Manny, Douglass, and others. It is always tough to see a players career end with an injury like this. Frazier is easily one of the best defenders in the league even if he doesn’t get as much love from ESPN as a media darling like Chris Kramer.
Update 12:36 PM: Per Erin Andrews on ESPN, Chester Frazier is out today and possibly for the whole weekend. Calvin Brock (along with Legion and Jordan) will be the guy to fill in for Frazier.
Update: 4:07 PM: Erin Andrews just reported that Frazier had surgery on his hand and will most likely be out for the entire weekend. The hope is that he will be able to play in the NCAA tournament.
- Defense: Illinois has the #4 defense in the country in terms of adjusted efficiency and #9 according to effective field goal percentage allowed. Baskets don’t come easy against Illinois, no doubt about that. Illinois doesn’t force a lot of turnovers but they also don’t let their opponents get to the line.
- Three point defense: Illinois holds their opponents to 28.5% from behind the arc (3rd nationally).
- Size: Tisdale and Davis have a lot of size inside and that will definitely test Michigan. When they play both at the same time it is almost impossible for Michigan to guard them. I think we will see a lot of zone, the 2-3 seems to be the zone of choice when opponents have a lot of size.
- Getting to the line: The Illini rank dead last (344th) in the NCAA in free throw rate. They are a team that lives on the mid-range jump shot and that just isn’t a strategy that gets you to the line. In many ways they are a perimeter oriented team that doesn’t shoot that many three point shots.
- Offensive Rebounding: Despite their size, Illinois is only a mediocre rebounding team. They rebound 30.6% of their misses (251st nationally) and 67.8% of their opponents misses (143rd).
Hopefully we see more of the dominant DeShawn Sims that we have seen for the last several games. Peedi has decided that he is going to be the best player on the court because of his talent, will, and focus and it is paying off. He has the chance to make up for one of his worst performances of the year (7 pts, 3-14 shooting, 2 rebounds) and I think he will be the catalyst for any Michigan success today.
In Michigan’s last four wins they have shot over 40% from three point range and that is definitely a key. I think that the higher shooting percentage is a sign of getting better looks more than some miraculous shooting improvement. Laval Lucas-Perry, Zack Novak, and Stu Douglass need to be ready to go because if they are all hitting their shots then opponents have to guard all of them, not just worry about one.
This post will serve as an open thread for all of today’s action. I also updated the bracketology links on the sidebar, Michigan looks to be right around the 9/10 seed line. Let’s hear your thoughts and predictions in the comments.
Pre-Game Reading (updated throughout the day):
- I’ve got what doctors call “a little bit of an image problem.”
The Big Ten hate is everywhere… BTG blames tempo rather than defense.
- Pre-game notes: Michigan’s Anthony Wright brightens young fan’s day with tickets
- 1-3-1 in name, only ($)
WVU tries out the 1-3-1 zone
- U-M still hungry after first-round feast over Iowa
“We didn’t come here to play just one game, win that game and be done,” co-captain David Merritt said. “We came here to win the tournament. It hasn’t really been discussed about the NCAA tournament. We wanted to get the first one and now prepare for Illinois.”
- Michigan’s impressive win leaves no doubt about NCAA tourney
Rosenberg on the win and Michigan’s tournament chances
- Friday hoops musings: Why to love DeShawn Sims ($)
This is a premium message board story on The Wolverine but it is just great stuff by Chris Balas
- Bracket math: Crunching the numbers
Lunardi has Michigan as a “lock”
Bubble Viewers Guide:
- Minnesota vs. Michigan State – 12 PM ESPN
- Virginia Tech vs. UNC – 12 PM ESPN2 (Lawson is OUT)
- Ohio State vs. Wisconsin – 2:30 PM ESPN – I think the loser will at least sweat on Sunday
- Mississippi State vs South Carolina – 3:15 PM ESPN360
- Kentucky vs. LSU – 1PM ESPN360
- Temple vs. Xavier – 6:30 PM
- Maryland vs. Wake Forest – 7PM ESPN2
- San Diego State vs BYU – 9PM CSTV
- New Mexico St. at Utah St. – 9PM
- Penn St. vs. Purdue -9PM BTN
- Florida vs. Auburn – 9:45 PM ESPN360
- Eastern Washington at St. Mary’s – 10:00 PM