Illinois Fighting Illini
Current record: 8-8
Big Ten record: 0-3
Current RPI: 114
Current Sagarin: 93
2006-07 RPI: 30
2006-07 Sagarin: 51
Series: IU leads 81-77
Last IU win: 2/12/07, 65-61 in Bloomington
Last Illinois win: 3/9/07, 58-54 (OT) in Chicago (BTT quarterfinals)
Last Illinois win in Bloomington: 2/3/04 (51-49)
TV: 4:30 pm, CBS
Eric Gordon's decision to decommit from Illinois and simultaneously commit to IU, back in October 2006, had wide-ranging repercussions. Kelvin Sampson, tarnished by Phonegate I, had instant credibility with IU fans. Many opposing fans and coaches, including Bruce Weber, criticized Sampson for breaking the "unwritten rules" that require a coach to be more loyal to the coaching fraternity than to the university that is paying him over a million dollars a year. Illinois fans reacted with particular venom, egged on by the compliant downstate Illinois media, including Illinois's head cheerleader Mark Tupper and most infamously, Bill Liesse of the Peoria Journal Star. The paper no longer hosts the article on its website, but here's what Liesse, a middle aged sports editor, had to say about a 17 year old kid who changed his mind about where to attend college:
Now that Eric Gordon has decided he wants to wear candystripe pants and play for a coach (Kelvin Sampson) who has as much to do with the NHL as he does the NBA, we thought we'd dedicate this week's (NFL) Lines to that steaming pile of two-guard.
There's no doubt that when IU plays at Illinois, the media and the Orange Krush and Bruce Weber will have the arena whipped in to a frenzy. I'm glad Gordon gets to break the ice against Weber and the Illini in more friendly surroundings.
Currently, IU leads all Big Ten schools in the all-time series except Purdue. Other than Purdue, Illinois is the closest. Since Lou Henson retired, IU is only 7-16 against the Illini. IU was 2-6 against Lon Kruger, 3-4 against Bill Self, and 2-6 against Bruce Weber. IU hasn't won at Champaign since 1999. Especially, IU has struggled to a 1-6 record against Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament. There have only been ten Big Ten Tournaments, so that means Illinois has eliminated IU more often than every other team combined. IU needs a winning streak against the Illini.
It also helps that the Illini aren't much of a team this year. Illinois started fairly well. Although they were only 6-3 after their first nine games, Illinois beat Arizona State and Oklahoma State and lost to three respectable teams in road/neutral games: Duke, Arizona, and Maryland (they also had a later win against Missouri). In the last three weeks, the wheels have fallen off: the Illini lost home non-conference games to Miami of Ohio and Tennessee State and have opened 0-3 in the Big Ten, including home losses to Ohio State and Penn State.
As I mentioned earlier in the week, the Illini have one of the toughest conference schedules and don't even get a quasi-home game in Evanston this year. The Illini certainly have had some respectable wins, but do not seem to be improving. The Illini's 64.3 possession pace is #289 nationally, and their 1.07 points per shot is slightly below average (although when adjusted for their tough schedule, the Illini rank #70). The Illini don't shoot terribly well, and their 29 percent three point percentage is one of the worst in the nation. The Illini do take care of the ball (ranking very high in steal percentage and turnover percentage offensively) and are a strong offensive rebounding team. So, while the Illini maximize their possessions, they don't shoot well and don't get to the line. Our Big Ten rivals like to complain that no one gets to the line in Assembly Hall, so it would be surprising if the Illini do so tomorrow.
On the defensive side, the Illini are #72 in raw efficiency and #35 in adjusted efficiency. The Illini are an interesting case. Their opponents get to the line quite a bit (the Illini are #325 in defensive free throws allowed percentage) but are great in traditional shooting percentage measures. Illinois allows only 30 percent (#32 nationally) in three point shooting and 43 percent (#55 nationally) two point shooting,
I'll try to check back later with some discussion of the individuals.