(17) Michigan vs (53) Illinois – 6:00 PM
One fights for a national seed, while the other fights for their NCAA Tournament lives when Michigan hosts Illinois in Ann Arbor on Saturday night. The Wolverines will likely welcome the opportunity to head back home after a trying week on the road that saw them collect just one point from two games. Granted, those two games were against league heavyweights Ohio State and Penn State, but given the Wolverines’ hot start to the Big Ten season, it still had to be disappointing. Despite that, Michigan still came as close as anyone in the Big Ten to beating Penn State this season, taking a lead on the road before conceding from the penalty spot late. While Greg Ryan’s side lost their chance at a Big Ten title, they did gain valuable ground in the hunt for a coveted national seed. The Wolverines are currently close to the edge of that conversation, and while a win on Saturday probably won’t budge the needle much, defeat could be costly in the end. The situation as far as the NCAA Tournament is concerned is much more dire for Illinois. The Illini in large part were done in by a five match winless streak in the league, which included a draw with Purdue and defeat to Northwestern. The club rebounded with a thumping win over Nebraska last week, but the Illini look to be currently off the bubble radar, meaning their earlier win over Ohio State probably won’t be enough to get them in the field. Another worry is staying at .500 and thus being eligible for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Currently just a game above the magic mark, defeat here would force the Illini to avoid a first round defeat at the Big Ten Tournament next week. Victory here though could change the game considerably for Illinois though. They’d likely jump right back onto the bubble, if not in the field itself, and they’d likely leapfrog some teams with lesser resumes, thanks to beating Michigan and OSU earlier. In their current form though, it’d take a brave soul to tip Illinois for three points, even with their last match ending in a resounding victory.