The last time Illinois and Michigan played, in January 2020, Illinois was seeking a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament while Michigan was seeking for any seed in the NCAA Tournament. Fourteen months later, Illinois and Michigan are both seeking a 1-seed.
Michigan failed to cover the 4.5-point spread last January, losing 64-62 in Ann Arbor, on their way to a 16-14-1 against the spread (ATS) record for the season, covering in just 52 percent of their games. They’re covering in 79 percent of their games this year, the third-bet mark in college basketball. Only Navy (82 percent) and Drake (80 percent) are covering at a higher clip, and only eight teams have more ATS wins than the Wolverines.
Michigan can improve to 16-4 ATS with an eight-point win over Illinois on Tuesday in Ann Arbor. In a game rescheduled from mid-February, the Wolverines are a 6.5-point favorite on BetMGM, down from 8.5 points at open (and 7.5 points from early Tuesday). And bettors love their chances of a 16th ATS win. As of Tuesday morning, 75 percent of the spread tickets are on Michigan, accounting for a staggering 86 percent of the spread handle. Only 14 percent of the money is on Illinois’ 15th ATS win of the season (14-9-1 entering Tuesday’s game).
“There is lopsided betting on Michigan against Illinois. The Illini covering or winning outright would be a good outcome for the sportsbook,” said BetMGM Sports Trader Seamus Magee.
If Illinois wins outright, they might do so without Ayo Dosunmu. The National Player of the Year candidate has missed their last two games with a facial injury suffered in a loss to Michigan State on Feb. 23. Head coach Brad Underwood has given no updates on Dosunmu in several days, and Dosunmu is listed as “day-to-day” on the injury report.
Illinois is 6-4 ATS on the road this season, most recently covering +4.5 in a five-point win over Wisconsin on Saturday. They’re also 2-0 ATS as a road underdog, 7-4 ATS with 2-3 days of rest, and 11-6-1 in all Big Ten games this season. Michigan, meanwhile, is 9-3 ATS at home, 9-3 ATS as a home favorite, 9-4 ATS with 2-3 days of rest, and 11-3 in all Big Ten games this season.
Also of note, 67 percent of all over/under total (146.5) are on the over, accounting for 65 percent of the over/under handle.
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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor by BetMGM, an NFL and college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else. He has written for Sports Illustrated, HERO Sports, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter: @DoughtyBetMGM