HQ forecast: Michigan 71, UI 66

HQ forecast: Michigan 71, UI 66

Beat writer Marcus Jackson's breakdown of ... Illinois  at No. 7 Michigan, noon, today

Illinois (20-8, 7-7 Big Ten)
P    Name    Yr.    Ht.    PPG
G    D.J. Richardson    Sr.    6-3    12.9
G    Brandon Paul    Sr.    6-4    16.4
G    Joseph Bertrand    Jr.    6-6    8.2
F    Sam McLaurin    Sr.    6-8    4.4
C    Nnanna Egwu    So.    6-11    6.5
FYI: In 10 games as a starter, McLaurin is shooting 55 percent from the floor (22 for 40, including his first career three-pointer).
G    Tracy Abrams    So.    6-1    10.6
F    Tyler Griffey    Sr.    6-9    7.3
F    Myke Henry    So.    6-6    3.3

Michigan (22-4, 9-4 Big Ten)
P    Name    Yr.    Ht.    PPG
G    Trey Burke    So.    6-0    18.6
G    Tim Hardaway Jr.    Jr.    6-6    15.2
G    Nik Stauskas    Fr.    6-6    12.2
F    Glenn Robinson III    Fr.    6-6    11.3
F    Jordan Morgan    Jr.    6-8    5.4
FYI: Hardaway’s averages for scoring, rebounds (4.5) and assists (2.2) — plus his field goal (46.1) and three-point percentages (40.7) — are all career highs.
G    Caris LeVert    Fr.    6-5    2.6
F    Mitch McGary    Fr.    6-10    6.0
F    Jon Horford    So.    6-10    2.4

Site: Crisler Center (12,693), Ann Arbor, Mich.
TV: ESPN — Bob Wischusen (play-by-play) and Dan Dakich (analyst) have the call.
Radio: Brian Barnhart (play-by-play) and former Illini Jerry Hester (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 85-75. Last meeting — Michigan 74, Illinois 60, Jan. 27.
FYI: The Wolverines are playing their first game in a week and second in 12 days.

Marcus Jackson’s storylines

1 For the fifth time in the last seven games, the Illini will be matched against an opponent that’s beaten them this season. Illinois exacted revenge in three of the four rematches, topping Minnesota, Purdue and Northwestern. Wisconsin swept the Illini, and Michigan can, too. “Familiarity, I think that’s definitely the biggest part about it,” Sam McLaurin said. “Once you play these teams once, you kind of get familiar with tendencies of the players and you try to take away those tendencies.”

2 A .500 record on the road in league play usually is a good thing. At 3-3, Illinois is in position to reach that figure. The Illini have appeared comfortable in tough road environments, including wins in the gyms of ranked opponents Gonzaga and Minnesota. “We’ve got to be unflappable when we play on the road, and we’ve done that on a lot of occasions,” UI coach John Groce said. “These guys are a little bit older; they’ve been in about every environment that you could think possible. It just comes down to executing.” Said D.J. Richardson: “It’s a big challenge; hopefully we can pull off a ‘W.’ ”

3 As successful as the Illini have been on the road this season,  Michigan does not make a habit of losing at home. The Wolverines are 12-0 at Crisler Center this season and have lost once in their last 31 home games. For Illinois, the key will be much like everything it has done this season — and that’s approach everything the same way. “They’ve done a great job of protecting home court and playing well at home,” Groce said. “In terms of X and O-wise or strategically how you defend what they’re running, that’s the same home or away.”

Prediction: Michigan 71, UI 66
When Michigan left Champaign with a win last month, the Wolverines ascended to No. 1 in the country. Illinois players lauded how good the Wolverines were, and though they’ve lost four of five, they’re still just as dangerous as they were when they were briefly on top of the college basketball world. Ask Groce what makes Michigan so good and he starts with point guard play, then to the wings, the post players and the development of the freshmen. Simply, Michigan has no weaknesses, and it will take a flawless performance to knock off John Beilein’s squad. “You’ve got to make very few mistakes when you play them. They’re so talented,” Groce said. “There’s a reason they’re as good as they are.” (N-G record: 16-12)