CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Two weeks of uncertainty, understaffed rosters and postponements ended Friday as Michigan basketball arrived at State Farm Center with something closer to a full roster of players to face No. 24 Illinois.
But one of the players still missing – star center Hunter Dickinson – leaves a huge hole for an attack that lacks reliable scorers. Dickinson, who leads UM with 16.1 points per game, traveled to Champaign with the team but never took the field for warmups. He and Brandon Johns Jr. have both traveled but are unavailable, according to a UM spokesperson.
Other players missing were reserve guard Zeb Jackson, who is on personal leave, and guard Brandon Wade, who has a non-COVID-19 illness.
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Michigan, who trained in spurts last week and never had enough players for five-on-five drills, have already faced a tough challenge against a hot Illini team that is undefeated. in Big Ten play and has won 10 of its last 11 games. Playing without Dickinson, the team’s best player and offensive focal point, makes Friday’s game even more perilous.
Dickinson told reporters at Big Ten media day in October that he circled the date with Illinois on the calendar after its poor performance in a lopsided loss to the Illini last March. The game against Illinois center Kofi Cockburn, who is averaging 22 points and 12.5 rebounds per game, was billed as a battle between the league’s top two centers. Cockburn enters the match with eight consecutive double-doubles.
Without Dickinson and Johns, the Wolverines will be forced to defend Cockburn with just one big money man: rookie Moussa Diabate. The only other center on the list is Jaron Faulds.
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