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Big Ten Tournament Bracket 2011: Michigan Basketball Faces Illinois

Back in January when Michigan had a 1-6 record in the Big Ten, it looked like the Wolverines were destined for the NIT at best. After upsetting Michigan State on the road, however, Michigan went on a run that included winning eight of its final 11 regular season games. Two of those victories were over MSU, and now Michigan is the No. 4 seed in the 2011 Big Ten tournament.

By being the four seed, Michigan got its first bye since 2004. It's a strange feeling to not see Michigan playing on Thursday, but the great finish to the season vaulted the Wolverines up to the four/five game. Their opponent today is Illinois, which also received a first-round bye.

Both Michigan and Illinois are considered bubble teams, although the Fighting Illini are probably in the field regardless of what happens this afternoon. Michigan, on the other hand, needs a win to solidify its NCAA tournament bid. A loss wouldn't burst the Wolverines' bubble, but it would leave them sweating until Selection Sunday.

In their one meeting earlier this season, Michigan lost at Illinois by a score of 54-52. Stu Douglass put up a miracle heave at the buzzer and it barely missed. In general it was an ugly game, as neither team shot the ball well, so it will be interesting to see how the Wolverines and Illini play today in Indy.

As you can see by looking at the Big Ten tournament bracket below, the winner of this game will advance to the semifinals to play the winner of the Ohio State/Northwestern game. The loser will be sent home and left waiting until Selection Sunday to learn of their NCAA tournament fate.

No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 8 Northwestern (beat Minnesota, 75-65, in first round)

No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 5 Illinois

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No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 7 Michigan State (beat Iowa, 66-61, in first round)

No. 3 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Penn State (beat Indiana, 61-55, in first round)

For more on the 2011 Big Ten tournament, check out SB Nation Detroit's StoryStream.