In the 2nd round of the Big Ten Tournament, the Michigan Wolverines (15-15, 8-10) battle the Illinois Fighting Illini (19-12, 9-9) on Thursday afternoon. The game tips off at 12:00 pm ET from the United Center in Chicago, Illinois and will be televised by the Big Ten Network. Illinois is currently a 3.5 point favorite in this game.

Though Michigan enters the Big Ten Tournament off a win (and cover) against Rutgers, the Wolverines had dropped 7 of their previous 8 prior to that victory. During that stretch, Michigan played themselves out of any at large possibilities for next week’s NCAA Tournament.  Michigan is a team that struggles on offense and has a very poor overall team shooting percentage of 42% ranking near the bottom in the NCAA. They also struggle on the boards also ranking near the bottom of the country in rebounding. Against the spread, the Wolverines are just 6-13-1 in their last 20 games following a cover in their previous game.

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Illinois enters the Big Ten Tournament off a loss in their previous game to Purdue 63-58. Prior to that, the Fighting Illini had picked up 2 consecutive Big Ten wins. Illinois is a very solid defensive team ranking 80th in the country in points allowed per game. They also feature a prolific offensive scorer in Rayvonte Rice who averages 17 points per game and shoots an outstanding 46% from three point range. Against the spread, Illinois is 3-0-1 in their last 4 games and 9-3-1 in their last 13 neutral site games.

Free Pick on Illinois -3.5

Illinois should come into this game with Michigan very motivated not only to win but to impress. The Fighting Illini are on the NCAA Tournament bubble and need to impress the selection committee in the Big Ten Tournament for any hopes of playing in next week’s NCAA Tournament. Michigan has been playing its worst basketball of the season down the stretch and may have already mailed it in on the season. The recent trends point to a Fighting Illini cover in this game as well. So take Illinois to cover in this game.