2011 BTT Game 1: Michigan vs. Illinois Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
Who: Illinois (19-12) at Michigan (19-12) Illinois%20Logo%201989[1]
Where: Conseco Field House, Indianapolis, IN
When: ~2:30 PM ET, Friday, March 11th
TV: ESPN / ESPN3.com
Radio: MGoBlue / WTKA 1050 AM
More: Big Ten Tournament Bracket / Preview / Beilein video / Player video

The Big Ten Tournament’s 4-5 game presents an interesting dynamic. Not only is the first round bye nice, you get a whole week to prepare for a known opponent rather than attempting to guess what team you will face. This game is even more intriguing because it’s just the second match-up between Michigan and Illinois and the first meeting in Champagne was decided by a missed buzzer beater. NCAA tournament implications just add to the stakes.

The first meeting was a slug fest. Both teams scored fewer than .9 points per possession and neither team shot the ball particularly well. The final score was just 54-52 in a painful 61 possession game. The notion that I’ve heard repeated by most Michigan fans is that “this is a winnable game as long as Michigan can shoot the ball better”. Unfortunately that’s not all too easy against Illinois.

The Illini have the best two point (45.2%) and three point (29.9%) field goal percentage defense in the Big Ten. There’s nothing complicated about it, the Illini have great length across the board with players like Tisdale, Davis, Cole and Richmond and it’s just hard to make shots against Illinois. Michigan’s bad shooting against Illinois wasn’t an anomaly; it’s a fact of life when you face Illinois. It’s not all doom and gloom, Illinois also forces the fewest turnovers in the Big Ten, a key reason why the Wolverines only coughed it up 5 times in Champaign and were able to stay close. Illinois is also just average at keeping opponents off of the free throw line and cleaning up the defensive glass, meaning that if you can make shots against the Illini you have a good chance of winning.

Illinois struggles in three of the four offensive factors as well, ranking ninth in turnover percentage, eighth in offensive rebounding, and eighth in free throw rate. At 1.07 points per trip, the Illini offense still ranks 5th in the league thanks to strong shooting numbers with an effective field goal percentage of 53% – 51% on twos and 38% on threes. Illinois is extremely talented but they boast the profile of a jumpshooting team that just doesn’t affect the game in enough other ways.

Illinois does pose some tough match-ups for Michigan. Mike Tisdale routinely has his way against Michigan and Demetri McCamey is capable of taking over any game with his deadly three point shooting. Those two scored 30 of Illinois’ 54 points in the first match-up and Bruce Weber has already made it clear in the media that he plans to get Tisdale involved early and often. The Illini utilized relatively simple high-low action to get Tisdale the ball in the first match-up, allowing much bigger four men to pass over Novak into Tisdale down low. Michigan will have to be prepared to make things difficult for Tisdale and also pressure taller Illini players at the top of the key to prevent the easy entry pass.

Non-McCamey Illini were 0-10 from three point range in the first match-up but there are some solid shooters on the roster. McCamey hits 45% of his threes in conference play and Tisdale sits at 45% (29 3PAs), Bill Cole 37%, Brandon Paul 35% and DJ Richardson 33%. Expect Stu Douglass to be tasked with slowing down Demetri McCamey. He has a size disadvantage inside but he is Michigan’s most reliable perimeter defender to make sure that McCamey doesn’t get loose from three point range.

Effective field goal percentage is the stat to watch in this game. It’s obviously the most important of the four factors but Illinois just doesn’t do enough else to make up for being outshot. If Michigan comes out hot and hits a few shots, the Wolverines have a great chance to win this game. Michigan was outshot in the first game but stayed close thanks to winning the turnover battle, so that should be number 2 on the priority list. Ten of Illinois’ 12 losses have come at road and neutral sites including losses to everyone from Missouri to Illinois-Chicago to Northwestern. This Illinois team is far from consistent and you never quite know what version you will see on any given night.

The importance of this game can’t be understated. No matter what the current bracketology reports say, Michigan needs to win this game. Lose this game and there will be 48 hours of waiting, watching games and praying. Win and the situation looks pretty bright going forward. This is the last semblance of control that Michigan has over its destiny and letting that slip away will lead to a couple sleepless nights and possible disappointment on Selection Sunday.

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  • Moe1989

    Man if they lose to Illinois Its gonna be hard sleeping friday and saturday………

  • Jeff

    Colorado is about to defeat KSU. I would think that would move them ahead of us.

  • GoBlue1980

    If we lose tomorrow, all the excitement of the last couple of weeks would have been for naught. I like our chances tomorrow with Beilein having time to prepare and us playing better against a team the second time we play them.If we win we move to a 10 seed. If we lose we are sweating it out come Sunday in either a First Four game on Tuesday or a #1 seed in the NIT.

    • Mith

      I personally disagree about the excitement of the last few weeks being for naught. It’s been a great ride and a very exciting few weeks in a season where I thought there would be very little to cheer for. Even if they fall short, I can honestly say I’ll be happy with what was accomplished this year. To be fair, I don’t know if I could have said that before the MSU game. That game seemed to put me over the top as far as being content with whatever outcome this season has.

      • AG2

        I have to say he’s right. Even if we lose to Illinois and end up in the NIT all that does is forestall the end of the season by a week or so. Nothing changes the fact that this team finished 4th in the Big Ten when they were picked to finish dead last, and some ppl said they were so devoid of talent that they’d go 0-18.

        This team has come A LOOOOOOOONG way from Belgium.

        • Geographically and metaphorically :)

  • mat

    Does ‘current’ bracketology make any assumptions about the Illinois outcome? In other words, does our profile go up/down depending on a win or only if the unexpected occurs?

  • Dylan Burkhardt

    No guesses are made about the future. They are based off of however things stand now.

  • MiamiWolv

    If we lose, prepare for the NIT.

    I’ve seen too many Michigan bubble teams get screwed on Selection Sunday.

    I fully expect to see us as a #1 seed in the NIT if we come up short.

  • Jeff

    Also noticed that Clemson and Boston College are immediately behind us on the SCurve, so the winner of their matchup will pass us if we don’t win tomorrow.

    • SJWolv

      Lunardi has both of them in now, so if we lose we’ll still be ahead of the loser of that game. Especially if Clemson loses since we won at their place.

      • Jeff

        He has them in but both are behind us. My point was if we lose, the winner will move ahead of us. I’m not sure whether the same is true for the Georgia/Alabama game, but it may be.

        • SJWolv

          I know, my point is that it opens up another bubble spot for us to slide into.

  • Mattski

    I see Iowa nearly caught MSU by halftime. Great.

    Personally, I will not be too depressed by a loss tomorrow, or with the NIT. Disappointed yet–but I just really like this team.

  • Dylan Burkhardt

    It sounds harsh but Michigan State looks like a team ready for the season to be over.

    • Mattski

      Funny, I just came over to post something along those lines. Izzo looks like a burned-out case; a long vacation could be the best thing that ever happened to him. They’re showing signs of life at the nine-minute mark. . .

    • JimC

      Iowa blew it.

      Yeah, Izzo has seemed pretty stressed out for the past, what, 10 years.

  • SJWolv

    If MSU loses we need PSU to do some damage to replace the 2 lost RPI wins.

    • SJWolv

      2 lost top 50 RPI wins.

  • KAB

    Dylan, does the MSU win help us?

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Doesn’t really change much. It’s also worth noting that Oakland is at 51 in the RPI. Could sneak into the top 50 if a couple teams fall back.

    • JimC

      Now MSU is inside the bubble which is bad for us, but It helps us too because we keep 2 top 50 wins. Kindof a wash.

  • jmblue

    Melsahn Basabe finishes the season with 9 assists and 65 turnovers, for a staggering 1:7.22 assist/turnover ratio.

    • MH20

      That is one hell of a statistic. One ugly as hell statistic.

  • Oak Park Dave

    I don’t want to sound flip because I would really like to have the team make the tournament, but beating Sparty twice was awesome and makes this season a success. To mix metaphors and sports, THAT was our bowl game.

  • Brian W

    Tim Hardaway Sr. is going to be working as a commentator on the radio at tomorrow’s Michigan-Illinois game. The Miami Herald has an article about Michigan players with famous fathers.


  • Tyler

    Dylan (or anyone else who wants to comment), if smotryzc can play effective in the post like he did the msu game, how dangerous do you think this team can be throughout the reminder of the season, and for the future? I strongly believe if smotrycz can succeed in the paint, then we can do some real damage in the btt and ncaa tourney. And for the future I think that would make us a legitimate big ten contender as soon as next season.

    All this being said, I think we lose tomorrow. I just don’t know how many times this team can win these pressure-packed games. You almost have to think it ends sometime. But hey I didn’t think we would win 3 out of our last 4 games, and I didn’t think we would beat state again. Everything I think this team won’t do… it does. No matter what happens tomorrow, I am proud of how this team has finished this season.

    • Kenny

      What we saw last Saturday is very encouraging given smotrysz has been working on the post only since January. He can be a real force next season with an improvement at the d mo scale.

    • FWIW, I think Michigan will win tomorrow and then lose to OSU. Smotrycz needs to step up big time and I think he can after seeing how he played against MSU. If he can hold his own inside on defense, we’re in great shape (assuming that our horrendous three-point shooting from the previous meeting regresses to the mean, which it may or may not).

      If we get in with a win, we’ll be an 11-seed that no one wants to play. It seems to me that we’re really one of very few bubble teams that are getting into a grove. Most of them seem to be treading water.

    • Devin

      The thing is though, Smotryzc had a good game against msu, but if I’ve learned anything about him this year, it’s that he is very inconsistent. So I don’t think that we can expect anything too much from him just yet.

      On another note, this team would be very scary if all our guys were clicking at the same time. Imagine Hardaway, Morgen, Morris hot with the addition of hot 3-point shooting from Novak, Stu, and Smotryzc.

    • ScottGoBlue

      I’d go the opposite direction, Tyler. This team only knows pressure-packed games. But for a handful of games, all our games have been fairly close or really close. I think theses guys will keep doing well under pressure. I like our chances tonight and I’m thinking we will win.

      And, hey, don’t count Smotryzc out. Beilein said they just started teaching him post moves in January. I think his break out against MSU is a positive sign that things are clicking for him. It seems to me that the foundational positions of Beilein’s offense are 1-3-5 (see Lee-Harris-Sims of 2008-09 and Morris-Hardaway-Morgan this year). The team functions well offensively when those three positions play well. But when the 2 and (perhaps especially) the 4 “get it”, that’s when the offense fires on all cylinders.

      Look out.

      • BK

        I agree with scott. This team has stepped up for every big game that it’s played over the past two months. Far from running out of big game wins, I think they’re used to it and will come out similarly ready to play today.

  • KAB

    So I guess a Indiana win is what we want???

  • Chris in NC

    Dammit Dylan!!! Predict a Michigan loss!!! It worked last time!

  • Dylan Burkhardt

    Max Bielfeldt will be at the game tomorrow and still wants to visit Ann Arbor. Also picked up a Bradley offer. http://bit.ly/g470TV

  • Fred_Ex

    I’m nervous as anybody about the game tomorrow. Not because I think we will lose but because it seems like every game for 3 weeks has been a must win and the “baby blues” just keep winning. If we win tomorrow one thing is for sure, it is going to feel nice to relax and watch the semifinal game knowing for certain we’re in. I wish I were poised enough to say I’m satisfied with a NIT bid but I won’t be. This is why I would be a terrible coach. I don’t believe in moral victories and such. I’ve said it on the sight before, you play to win a national title and there’s only one way to do it and it’s not by making the NIT. We have been better on the road than Illinois and anyone who has ever played knows it’s usually not the crowd that wins home games it’s the rim. The ball bounces different on an unfamiliar court. Go Blue!!!

  • billiam

    Odd to see so many homers picking UM to lose? What gives?

    • Tweeter

      i’m not! BTT Title baby! Go Blue!

  • ScottM

    Someone tell me how it benefits UM if Wash beats Was St. If Wash loses it pushes them farther down the s curve and by no means does it push Wash St. past UM. I know our tourney hopes basically rest with tomorrows game but I’ll take a Wash loss. They both have sorry resumes anyway.

    • Tyler

      If we lose and they lose we are ahead of them. If we lose and they win they might jump us. If we win we are in. Not a huge benefit, but if we do lose you really don’t want all these teams below us going on runs, even though I think we would still be above wsu if we lost.

  • Tim Kim

    I’m bracing for a beatdown…I have no logic supporting that but as a student since the horror have only witnessed letdowns across all michigan sports. I know better than to get excited…about anything michigan sports related.

    • Jeff

      You must be a freshman or a sophomore or you’ve forgotten what happened two years ago.

      • Tim Kim

        No I know that we made the tourney 2 years ago, but that seems be a small blip in the overall scheme of dong punches I have taken. I don’t want to reproduce a list because I have repressed most of those memories, but I can assure you that the fortunes of michigan have not been great the last few years and, for the most part, every time something is going well, something crappy happens.

        • BK

          I think your thinking of the amaker years, when we had none of the same players, coaches, or even athletic director. Plus you’re a bit off on “all michigan sports”. We’ve won five of the last ten CCHA championships and it wasn’t half a decade ago that we had a dominant football team. Plus we won the softball national championship a few years back and a get a whole slew of Big Ten titles in other minor sports every year.

  • AG2

    ScottM, the way the Pac10 is looking right now its safe to say that either Wazzu, Oregon, or USC is going to win the Pac10 Tournament. The only way to keep the Pac10 from stealing a 4th bid is if Wazzu beats Washington and knocks Washington out.

    The reason people are down on our chances of beating Illinois are because 1. Michigan has *never* beat Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament and, 2. Illinois can jam the lane with 3 7-footers, and that’s not a good thing.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Arizona still alive, keeping hope strong for bubble teams across the country.

      • AG2

        That may be the case, but Arizona got absolutely manhandled on their last SoCal trip, and USC is playing with all the momentum right now. Arizona struggled a bit too much with Oregon State for me to think they can stop USC.

        Then again this is the same team that lost to Oregon twice, Rider, and TCU so maybe the Bad USC can show up.

        • Devin

          Speaking of which, Oregon now has a shot at stealing the auto-bid.

    • Devin

      The Big Ten Tournament hasn’t been going on for long. We were one of the last conferences to add a Tourny. So the point that we’ve never beaten Illinois in the B10 Tournament is kind of Null and Void.

  • paul r

    I am feeling a 9-15 day shooting the 3 tomorrow ans UM winning by 8 pts. T_Hard goes for 22 and Douglas(yes Douglass ) goes for 15

  • Sven

    71-63 Michigan

  • Alex

    Of all the days to be moving back to Michigan. This is a game that the team can win. Team has to stay positive during the course of the game and maintain composure as I’m sure Illinois will make runs.

  • Giddings

    Man, other bubble teams aren’t doing us any favors today. Pretty much every single result has gone the “wrong” way for us. Washington with a chance to save a little face but they’re just getting “out-efforted” by Washington State. Klay Thompson, wow… imagine if we had him playing all of Stu’s minutes.

    • Anthony

      I disagree alot of things have gone right so far you can not expect a team like va tech or bc to lose today… Washington knocked out wsu who was most likely in, but the pac 10 is still scary. Bama and Georgia play today for most likely a spot in the tournament.

      What helped us washington over wsu, ecu over uab, ok over baylor, ok state over nebraska, Not to mention no bid stealers in other tournaments like butler and odu winning…

      Mich needs to win tommorow, but really i think are ok as long as no suprise team wins the sec or pac 10 tournament…

  • Bo Lives

    Speculation that we won’t make the tourney unless we win tomorrow is ludicrous. You think the NCAA selection committee would PUNISH us for getting a first round bye (and let MSU in when the only reason they’ll have gotten any Big 10 tourney wins is because they were the 7 seed?) That’s asinine. Stop worrying, Of course, it will only help if we win tomorrow, but seriously, there would be NO justification for keeping the #4 seed from the Big 10 out of the NCAA.

    • paul r

      agree 100%. we lose today at very least we are in the “First Four” games in Dayton Tuesday and Wdnesday. Let win today and make a push for higher seed. Go Blue. Heading out from Cincy at about 9:30. Go Blue!!

  • Brian W

    Now there’s a report about a misunderstanding between Bradley and Max Bielfeldt regarding an offer…


  • AG2

    The first round conference tournament games are “win and you’re alive, lose and you’re out” type games not “win and you’re in.” Colorado’s in the mix because they beat K-State 3 times, not because they finally learned how to scrape by Iowa State. If we lose, I think it depends on what happens with MSU and Penn State. If we’re in right now then we should still be in ahead of the other bubble teams who lose in the quarterfinals.

    Or the committee could just give the bids to VCU, Missouri State, New Mexico, or a 4th Pac-10 team.

    Also, I’d caution against reading too much into that Alabama/Georgia game. Last year people said Florida/Mississippi State was a bubble elimination game in the SEC Tournament and even though Mississippi State won and almost won the conference tournament Florida was a 10 seed and Mississippi State wasn’t even first four out.

    • Jeff

      Alabama has to be one of the most unique cases in history. They have a slew of bad losses, RPI of 80 and a ridiculous SOS for a major college team. On the other hand, they have good wins over Kentucky, Tennesse and Georgia, but again, only 4 top-100 wins. Honestly, the only thing that has them in the discussion is that they went 12-4 in a major conference. If the committee isn’t mesmerized by the conference record, they really shouldn’t be in the discussion. Who knows what they’ll do.

  • chris

    go blue how are we the 4 seed and ill 5 seed we got same record conf and overall and they beat us head to head , just wondering go blue

    • Chris

      michigan is the 4 seed due to the tiebreaker rules in the B10. Mich, Illinois, MSU, and PSU were all tied, so to break the tie, you look at the records each team has against one another. Mich was 4-1 against the other teams, which was the best of the four, which gave them the 4 seed

      • Tweeter

        wow, that was some sloooow typing on my part

    • Tweeter

      it was a four way tie for fourth with illinois, PSU, MSU and UM. UM won the first tiebreaker, which was team with the best winning percentage against the other three.

    • andrew

      chirs its because there was a four way tie for 4th place and we had the best record head to head vs the other 3 teams. go blue

  • Jeff

    On Lunardi’s new SCurve, Colorado passed us. So we are 6th to last in. Since Clemson/BC are immediately behind us, I assume that if we lose, the winner would pass us. Other teams that I think would pass us with one win are VTU, Georgia, and MSU. I think PSU would pass us with two wins. The conferences most likely to steal bids are the WAC, Pac-10, and A10. CUSA and Mountain West have outside shots at stealing bids. Huge day for UofM.

  • Devin

    I feel that we should just look at what we can control. Treat today’s game as a win or go home playoff game. Let’s not worry too much about the things that are out of our control.

  • Bleedin’ Blue

    On a side note, Novak made Seth Davis’ All Glue team on si.com: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/seth_davis/03/10/all.glue.team/index.html?eref=sihp
    We all knew this, it is nice to see others taking note!
    GO BLUE!

  • JimC

    GO BLUE!

    (And stay off the west coast beaches)

  • Bird

    The committee’s going to be watching this one closely. If it’s a good game and hard fought, I think it could be a chance for both teams to impress, regardless of the outcome. If we lose another snoozer like last time, or by double digits, that would be bad. But I’m sure we’ll leave it all on the floor. Go Blue!