Michigan basketball to face Illinois without star center Hunter Dickinson

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Two weeks of uncertainty, undermanned rosters and postponements came to an end Friday as Michigan basketball arrived at State Farm Center with something closer to a full complement of players to face No. 24 Illinois.

But one of the players still missing — star center Hunter Dickinson — leaves a massive hole for an offense that lacks reliable scorers. Dickinson, who leads U-M with 16.1 points per game, traveled to Champaign with the team but never took the court for warmups. He and Brandon Johns Jr. both traveled but are unavailable, according to a U-M spokesman.

The other players missing were reserve guard Zeb Jackson, who is on personal leave, and guard Brandon Wade, who is dealing with a non-COVID-19 illness.

READY FOR THE ILLINI? Michigan basketball's return to play: Scouting report, prediction at Illinois

Michigan center Hunter Dickinson attempts a shot as Rutgers center Clifford Omoruyi defends during the second half of U-M's 75-67 loss to Rutgers on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, in Piscataway, New Jersey.
Michigan center Hunter Dickinson attempts a shot as Rutgers center Clifford Omoruyi defends during the second half of U-M's 75-67 loss to Rutgers on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Michigan, which practiced in fits and starts for the last week and never had enough players for five-on-five drills, already faced a difficult challenge against a red-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 had circled the date with Illinois on the schedule following his poor performance in a lopsided loss to the Illini last March. The matchup against Illinois center Kofi Cockburn, who averages 22 points and 12.5 rebounds per game, was billed as a battle of arguably the two best centers in the league. Cockburn enters the game with eight consecutive double-doubles.

Without Dickinson and Johns, the Wolverines will be forced to defend Cockburn with only one scholarship big man: freshman Moussa Diabate. The only other center on the roster is walk-on Jaron Faulds.

Contact Michael Cohen at mcohen@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Cohen13.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan basketball without star center Hunter Dickinson vs. Illinois