How They Are Doing So Far:
Illinois tested themselves during non-conference play. They failed the test. The Illini are 4-7 in non-conference games with those wins coming against Evansville, Mississippi Valley State, UNLV and East Tennessee State. There are not many bad losses on the slate though and a few times the Illini fared quite well against some very good teams. That means this is an Illini squad that could surprise a few teams, but that will not likely happen on Thursday when Michigan comes to town.
Last Time Out:
Illinois nearly got their first Big Ten win on Sunday night when they lost 68-66 at Northwestern. Freshman Ayo Dosunmu led the way with 18 points and the Illini also got surprising offense outputs from Da’Monte Williams and Adonis De La Rosa. Williams, a 6-3 sophomore, scored eight of his ten points from the charity stripe and reach double digits in the scoring department for the third time this season. De La Rosa has not seen much playing time at all this season, but the big man scored a dozen points in 14 minutes against Northwestern. It was the outside shooting that ended up hurting Illinois the most. They shot 0-of-11 from beyond the arc. That is not going to cut it against Michigan.
Who To Watch:
There are some decent shooters on this team though. Trent Frazier is shooting 39.8 percent from long range and averages a team high 14.9 points. Ayo Dosunmu is also a consistent outside shooter, hitting 39.0 percent of his attempts so far this season. Those two will score whether or not they are having a good shooting night, but they will need to be a threat from everywhere on the floor in order to stretch out the Michigan defense. The other shooter on the team is Aaron Jordan. He takes most of his shots from long range and can be a difference maker. Against Evansville Jordan went 5-of-8 from long range and scored 19 points. He also dropped 23 points on Notre Dame and 20 on Florida Atlantic.
Who Else To Watch:
The frontcourt duo of Giorgi Bezhanishvili and Kipper Nichols will have their hands full against the Wolverines. Bezhanishvili has been a pleasant surprise. The 6-9 freshman is averaging 10.1 points and 4.8 rebounds. He is a decent shooter and passer, but is not consistently making outside shots yet. Still, he is providing a scoring threat in the paint and that will be extremely important against Michigan so the shooters can have a little bit of space to operate.
Michigan, at 15-0, is not going to worry too much about a 4-11 Illinois team. Everything will have to go perfect for the Illini. The best news for the Illini is that this game is in Champaign. The last time Michigan was on the road, way back on December 4th against Northwestern, the Wolverines only won 62-60. Big Ten road games are tough no matter what so Michigan better be ready to play or Illinois could make things interesting.