NCAA Basketball Matchup of the Week and Pick: Michigan Wolverines at Illinois Fighting Illini

Conference season in college basketball is usually reserved for after the New Year, but that isn't the case in the Big Ten. The Big Ten Conference has scheduled some games before Christmas, and one of these matchups is the NCAA Basketball Matchup of the Week. The 4th ranked Michigan Wolverines will travel to Champaign, Illinois for a matchup with the Fighting Illini.

Michigan has just one loss so far this season, and it came against top-ranked Louisville. The Wolverines come into this game with a record of 8-1, and they are 1-0 so far in conference play. Illinois is just 6-3 so far this season, but they nearly pulled off a stunner on Saturday. The Fighting Illini suffered a one point loss on the road against a top-10 Maryland Terrapins team.

Illinois Must Defend to Win

If Illinois is going to pull off this upset at home then they are going to have to play defense at a very high level. The Fighting Illini are giving up just 68 points per game this season, but have given up at least 80 points in two of their losses this season. Illinois does have an elite rim protector in Kofi Cockburn, who is averaging more than one block per game.

Head coach Brad Underwood wants his team to play an uptempo style on offense, and he has the roster to get it done. Coburn leads the team with 15.4 points per game, but the Illini have a trio of guards who are also averaging in double-figures. Turnovers have been an issue for this squad, and they must improve upon their 15.6 turnovers per game if they are going to win conference games.

Michigan Features Balanced Attack

The Michigan Wolverines have lost a ton of talent in recent NBA Drafts, but they have reloaded to feature a terrific roster full of offensive weapons. Michigan is averaging over 80 points per game this season, and just went over the century mark in their conference opener against Iowa. The Wolverines have had some issues at defense at times this season, including allowing 44 points to Luka Garza in their most recent win.

Forward Isaiah Livers leads the Wolverines with 15.1 points per game this season, but they also have three other players in double figures. Michigan is making over nine three-point shots per game, and they aren't afraid to shoot them. Point guard Zavier Simpson is averaging nearly nine assists per game, and does a great job of setting up his teammates.

Illinois Pulls Off Big Ten Upset

This is really early in the season to be playing Big Ten games, and both teams in this game are still trying to figure things out. Michigan can really score and have been playing well, but life on the road in the Big Ten is never easy. Illinois nearly pulled off an upset at Maryland last weekend, and they will be ready for the Wolverines at home.Take the Illinois Fighting Illini to upset the Michigan Wolverines in the NCAA Basketball Matchup of the Week.