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Keys to the game: Michigan vs. Illinois

Some things to keep in mind as tip nears between the Wolverines and Fighting Illini

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Following the first Big Ten Conference road win, Michigan is back in Ann Arbor to take on Illinois at noon from the Crisler Center.

The Wolverines are going for their seventh consecutive win and are looking to stay perfect at home where they are currently 8-0 on the season.

With tip-off in less than an hour, here are some things to watch for during today’s game.

3-point battle

Anyone who watches U-M basketball knows the Wolverines like to shoot the 3-ball. Against Iowa on Tuesday, they shot 44 percent (11-of-25) from beyond the arc, bringing their season total to 36.7 percent. Illinois is now under its first year being coached by Brad Underwood who was previously at Oklahoma State. Like his team’s there, The Fighting Illini shoot a nearly even amount of three’s and two’s. The big difference — U of I is shooting just 32 percent from deep on the season which ranks 275th in Division I basketball, compared to Underwood’s Oklahoma State team that shot 40.3 percent from 3-point distance a season ago. Whatever team can hit their triples today has a better shot to walk out with a win.

Battle on the glass

In previous years, rebounding wasn’t something that John Beilein coached teams have done well. This season, the Wolverines find themselves ranked 11th in the country in defensive rebounding. The counter act — Illinois is ranked sixth in the country on the offensive glass. Illinois is a team that will work for those second chance opportunities and if U-M allows them to gain them, this game will be a lot closer than some expect. It will be key for the Wolverines to box out and get rebounds to create transition opportunities. It should tell the tale of easy points for both teams.

Simpson and Livers stay consistent

Against the Hawkeyes, both underclassmen came out and preformed some of the best basketball they have all season. Zavier Simpson tallied 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting while adding seven assists and three rebounds. Simpson started the second half and appears to be working towards a starting role. Isaiah Livers arguably played his best basketball in a U-M uniform, dropping 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting (3-of-3 from deep) with three assists in 27 minutes, his highest total of the season by far. If both of these players can keep that kind of play up or at least similar numbers, it will add to the Wolverines depth monumentally. Today is another opportunity at home against a winless Big Ten team to make more strides.

What will happen

Coming off a nice win on the road against Iowa, it would be odd for the Wolverines to slow up at home against a team that is struggling to start off league play. This is one the Wolverines can’t get caught looking ahead at, though, as a large week looms next week with No. 13 Purdue and No. 1 Michigan State on the horizon. U-M is favored to win by 10 points, and it shouldn’t be any less than that.