For the first time since 2004, Michigan has a first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament. The Wolverines are the No. 4 seed in the 2011 bracket, and they will play Illinois, the No. 5 seed. This game is set to be played on Friday, and it will begin 25 minutes after Ohio State's game against Northwestern or Minnesota concludes.
Michigan has won its opening game in the Big Ten tournament four years in a row. Interestingly, the last three of those wins were against Iowa. This is the first time since 2007 that Iowa isn't Michigan's first opponent in the Big Ten tournament.
The last time Michigan played Illinois in the Big Ten tournament was in 2009. The Wolverines lost to the second-seeded Fighting Illini by a score of 60-50, but Michigan's 20-13 record was good enough to get them a spot in the NCAA tournament. This year Michigan is 19-12 going into the conference tournament, and most expect that a win over Illinois would be enough to punch a ticket to this year's NCAA tourney.
A win over Illinois would give Michigan its first Big Ten tournament game on a Saturday since 2004, when the Wolverines lost to the Fighting Illini in the semifinals. It would also likely give Michigan a chance to get revenge on Ohio State for what happened last year in Indy. The Buckeyes' Evan Turner made a 37-footer at the buzzer to end Michigan's season and keep the Wolverines out of the semifinals. This year, the Buckeyes are once again the No. 1 seed, and barring an upset by Northwestern or Minnesota, they will be there in the semifinals for the winner of the Michigan/Illinois game.