Michigan is in perfect position to move into the No. 1 spot in the rankings with a win at Illinois. However, this Fighting Illini team matches up well with the Wolverines.
The biggest strength for this Michigan team is their speed and athleticism in the full court over 40 minutes. The Wolverines had another slow start against the Boilermakers on Thursday, but wore them out and shut them down defensively in the second half of a 68-53 victory.
Illinois has the guard play and the speed to keep up with Michigan. While it's nearly impossible to stop Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III all in the same game, the Illini can contain them and at least take away some of their easy baskets in transition.
When Michigan went on the road against a solid perimeter defending team at Ohio State, the Buckeyes defeated the Wolverines in large part because of their excellent defensive play. Burke, Hardaway Jr. and Robinson III combined to shoot 12 of 36 from the field and turned the ball over seven times.
The Illini hit a bump in the road with three consecutive losses recently, but they got back on track with a 20-point win at Nebraska on Tuesday behind D.J. Richardson's 30 points. If Illinois starts hitting jump shots between Richardson and Brandon Paul, it opens up the height advantage the Illini have in the post.
With a five-game gauntlet coming up for Illinois, it's time for the senior, Brandon Paul, to put on a show in Assembly Hall against the No. 2 team in the country.
Illinois 76, Michigan 70