Thursday College Basketball Best Bets: Michigan To Upset Short-Handed Illini?

Written By Derek Wagner on March 2, 2023
college basketball best bets

There are three Big Ten matchups on Thursday’s college basketball odds, including Michigan at Illinois. Both teams are motivated to win this matchup as they are playing to secure a double-bye in the 2023 Big Ten Tournament. Let’s dig into my college basketball best bets for this contest, in which the Wolverines look to bolster their at-large resume as well.

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Michigan’s “Big” Edge

The 7-foot-1, 260-pound Hunter Dickinson is a matchup nightmare for Illinois in the post. In recent games, Illini coach Brad Underwood has elected to go with a smaller lineup, playing Coleman Hawkins at the center and bringing freshman Ty Rodgers in off the bench. If he goes with this group again on Thursday, and Hawkins isn’t able to space the court against Michigan, good luck to the Illini against the Wolverines’ half-court offense.

Even though Illinois possesses one of the better interior defenses in college basketball, it’s been embarrassed by quality big men in conference play, most notably Trayce Jackson-Davis. In two games against Illinois, Jackson-Davis dropped 35 and 26 points, respectfully. Dickinson is certainly capable of having a big night himself.

If this notion comes to fruition, Michigan’s perimeter shooting should reap the benefits once double-teams on Dickinson ensue. But keep in mind, Wolverines freshman Jett Howard is reportedly questionable with an ankle injury. Their second-leading scorer has missed their last two matchups.

Moreover, the Wolverines only turn the ball over at a 12.8% clip, good for 10th-lowest rate across D-1. The Illini thrive when they’re able to force takeaways and tally pick-sixes in transition. We’ve seen Illinois struggle to do so against both Penn State and Northwestern in conference play already. If Terrance Shannon, Jr. & Co. are unable to do so versus Michigan, look for their offense to struggle again.

Although Illinois crashes the offensive glass at a fantastic 32.5% clip, which ranks No. 56 nationally, Michigan is capable of holding the Illini in check. Led by Dickinson and Terrance Williams, the Wolverines limit opponents to a 26.2% offensive rebounding rate (No. 83 in D-1). In fact, the Wolverines performed more efficiently in that regard during Big Ten play, permitting a measly 24.2% offensive rebounding clip.

Additionally, Illinois will likely be without their freshman guard Jayden Epps (concussion) for Thursday’s matchup. Epps has been instrumental for Underwood since Skyy Clark — the highest-rated recruit in Illini’s 2022 class — left the program in on Jan. 6. Point guard duties are expected be shared by the aforementioned Shannon, who’s excelled in pick-and-roll sets since Clark’s departure, and freshman Sencire Harris.

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Why Illinois Can Cover

On the other side of this matchup, look for Illinois to lean heavily on Matthew Mayer and Shannon. Mayer’s shooting efficiency has been an issue in recent games, connecting on 29.2% of his perimeter looks over the last three games. He could very well be due for some positive variance in front of the home crowd at the State Farm Center.

On top of that, ShotQuality notes that Michigan’s defense from behind the arc may be due for negative regression. That’s because its open 3-point rate ranks in the middle of the pack during Big Ten play.

However, the fifth-year senior is also dealing with “caffeine poisoning,” following five Monster energy drinks while playing video games. This reportedly occurred after the Illini’s loss at the Buckeyes on Sunday to boot.


This game represents a great spot to back Michigan, especially since it’s getting over a possession against the spread. Expect another big game from Dickinson in a must-win spot. As seen in the odds table above, the best available line is currently Michigan .

Best of luck on your own college basketball best bets. For more, check out our college basketball power rankings.


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