Ohio State and Northwestern put on a heck of a show to kick off Friday's action in the 2011 Big Ten Tournament, but Illinois and Michigan will attempt to follow it up when they battle for the right to take on Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. You can watch all of the action on ESPN.
Over at Hail to the Orange, SB Nation's site for the Fighting Illini, they think they've got a pretty good shot at advancing to take on the Buckeyes.
If Illinois plays the way they have been lately, in two wins against Iowa and Indiana, and a road loss to Purdue, they should dispatch the Wolverines handily. Illinois matches up very well against UM, as they have a great deal of defensive strength and speed on the perimeter, as well as three post players that may be able to score with easy against the undersized Wolverine front line.
On the other hand, as we have seen in the past, if Michigan gets hot from three, there is no telling how many points they will put on the board. The Wolverines heaved up 18 three's in their loss in Champaign, but only connected on two of them. I doubt we can be so lucky as to have such a low deep shooting percentage again, but it may not matter if Illinois can manage to get enough points and boards out of their big men, something we have been saying of course, for three years.
The folks at SB Nation's Michigan Wolverines site, Maize n Brew, don't seem to be quite as optimistic, for some reason.
If you listen to the prognosticators, for the first time this season Michigan is going into a game with something to lose. Something that can be taken away from them. And how that will effect their play is the great unknown.
Even though we as fans and the media have them "solidly" in the Tournament, what the hell do we know? No invitation has been extended. Michigan's resume is good, but not a lock for inclusion. No one is talking about seeding, they're only talking about making it. Put simply, it ain't a done deal yet.
That's why today's game is such an opportunity for this young Michigan squad. They've been written off once before this season, and they certainly don't want to allow anyone the opportunity to do that again. This is an opportunity to erase a two point loss to the Illini earlier this season. It's an opportunity to show just how good they are. The opportunity to get to the next level years ahead of where even the most optimistic Michigan fans thought it would take. The opportunity to carve their ticket to the Dance in stone.
It should be a good one, and it will be getting underway here shortly.