Illinois hasn’t forgotten what happened, and it will compete at a higher level with the stakes greater.
No. 9 Illinois vs. No. 1 Michigan,
11 a.m. Friday
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Tracy Abrams Jr. 6-2 11.0
G Kendrick Nunn Fr. 6-3 6.3
G Rayvonte Rice Jr. 6-4 15.7
G/F Malcolm Hill Fr. 6-6 4.2
C Nnanna Egwu Jr. 6-11 7.0
FYI: In the previous meeting against the Wolverines, Rice and Nunn combined to score 30 of Illinois’ 53 points and made 11 of the team’s 20 field goals.
OFF THE BENCH
F Jon Ekey Sr. 6-7 7.3
G Joseph Bertrand Sr. 6-6 8.6
F Maverick Morgan Fr. 6-10 1.6
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Derrick Walton Jr. Fr. 6-1 8.1
G Caris LeVert So. 6-6 13.4
G Nik Stauskas So. 6-6 17.4
F Glenn Robinson III So. 6-6 13.2
F Jordan Morgan Sr. 6-8 5.5
FYI: Stauskas, the Big Ten Player of the Year, started both games in last year’s conference tournament and averaged 9.5 points and 5.0 rebounds.
OFF THE BENCH
G Zak Irvin Fr. 6-6 7.0
G Spike Albrecht So. 5-11 3.5
F Jon Horford Jr. 6-10 4.3
Site: Bankers Life Fieldhouse (18,345), Indianapolis
TV: ESPN — Mike Tirico (play-by-play), former Indiana player and coach Dan Dakich (analyst) and Allison Williams (reports) have the call.
Radio: Brian Barnhart (play-by-play) and former Illini Jerry Hester (expert analysis) have the call on the Illini Sports Network on WDWS 1400-AM, WDAN 1490-AM, WHMS 97.5-FM, WDNL 102.1-FM and WPXN 104.9-FM.
Series: Illinois leads 85-77. Last meeting: No. 12 Michigan 84, Illinois 53; March 4 (Champaign).
FYI: As the lower-seeded team in the Big Ten tournament, the Illini are 9-9, including Thursday’s win against Indiana.
Marcus Jackson’s storylines
1. Offensively, Michigan has flexed its muscle all season, particularly in that first meeting against the Illini. “I haven’t seen that in practice even,” coach John Beilein said after his team shot the lights out 10 days ago in Champaign. The Wolverines rank as one of the top five teams in the country in terms of offensive efficiency, but they feel their defense, which ranks last in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage against at 44.2 percent, can be better. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a team that gave up the 45 percentage points that we gave up this year. We gave up 55 and 59 percent a couple games and won,” Beliein said. “But I think (across) the whole country, the percentages are up offensively. We have gotten better, but still, obviously, we’re not good enough to shut people down enough.”
2. Despite winning the conference’s regular season title by a comfortable three-game margin, the Wolverines enter the tournament with a chip on their shoulder, feeling like the world is against them. Perhaps an effort to fire themselves up for the postseason run. “We’re the No. 1 seed, but I don’t think we’re the favorite to win the tournament. I don’t think anyone really thinks we’re going to win,” Stauskas said. “We have a chip on our shoulder, and we’re excited to prove ourselves again. It’s just another great opportunity to show how hard we worked all season and that we can possibly be the best team in the Big Ten.”
3. Friday will be the first time this season Illinois plays a game without a day of rest in between. In last year’s Big Ten tournament, the Illini fell to an Indiana team that had a first-round bye. They’re facing a similar situation against Michigan. “I’ve done it before, and it’s all about mind-set and taking care of your body,” Abrams said. “It’s all about your mind-set and knowing you can go out there and give it all you’ve got and not focused on ‘I’m banged up’ or anything like that.”
Michigan 69, Illinois 65
Illinois coach John Groce likes to say his team has amnesia in that the Illini quickly forget what’s happened in the past — whether it was good or bad. Try as they might, that 31-point loss to Michigan 10 days ago hasn’t been forgotten, though Illinois has rebounded nicely from it by winning two straight. Toppling the Wolverines will be a tall task, and with the odds stacked against them, don’t expect a repeat of what happened at State Farm Center. Illinois hasn’t forgotten what happened, and it will compete at a higher level with the stakes greater. “To do what they’ve done here late in the year after the (eight-game) losing streak, I think that’s the answer to the question,” Groce said. “They’re on to the next one. You don’t go to Iowa City, that’s a tough place to play, Fran (McCaffery) does a great job, play the way we played three or four days (after the Michigan loss) if you don’t have some toughness about you. I think our group is pretty tough.” (N-G record prediction: 24-8)