GAME INFO / HOW TO WATCH:
Who? Indiana Hoosiers (22-6 (12-3), #19 KenPom) vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (12-15 (4-10), #126 KenPom)
When? Thursday, February 25th, 9:00 PM, ESPN
Pomeroy? INDIANA by 7, 73% chance of Indiana victory
Y'ALL READY FOR HEARTBREAK?
These teams have played before (it did not go well for the visitors!) and fire up roughly the same rosters for this second leg as they did in the first go-around. Illinois, outside of an almost inexplicable win over Purdue, haven't beaten anyone this year. Two wins over Rutger and a win over Minnesota represent their victories, but they did look awfully plucky through 30 minutes at the Kohl Center on Sunday night before getting outscored by 18 in the game's final ten minutes.
Probably no big deal for Indiana to walk in to the Spaceship (with or without a healthy Robert Johnson, more on that later) and get an easy victory late on a Thursday night on a national ESPN broadcast? Illinois has lost three of their last four and Indiana is coming off a big, emotional home victory and oh noooooooooo he's wide open how did you screw up so badly
GRANTED: that Illinois team was only 54 spots lower on KenPom at the time of this atrocity while the current rosters are 107 spots apart in the rankings. But Illinois has knocked off
good teams one good team in their building this season, so it's not as if they're helpless. Indiana may be shorthanded come game time, so any lack of focus will further put them at risk of a title hopes-ending upset.
HERE WOULD YOU LIKE SOME FACTORS?
|INDIANA (#11 Adj. Offense)||58.7% (2nd)
||19.8% (272nd)||37.7% (14th)||33.3% (260th)|
|ILLINOIS (#124 Adj. Defense)||53.0% (306th)||18.5 (166th)||27.5 (72nd)||27.5 (19th)|
|INDIANA (#79 Adj. Defense)||49.8% (168th)||19.1% (122nd)||28.7% (116th)||30.1% (49th)|
|ILLINOIS (#149 Adj. Offense)||49.8% (183rd)||14.5% (8th)||22.2% (340th)||32.4% (289th)|
Indiana's defense has been trending the wrong way after months of incredible improvement. A lot of this is due to the last five minutes of the Purdue game in which the Boilermakers pulled off a stunning impersonation of their hated rivals and drilled three-pointer after three-pointer to erase a 19-point lead to a precarious single possession. Those shots count, however, and raised Purdue's points per possession to an unacceptable 1.18 for the game. But it should be noted that through the majority of that game, Purdue couldn't do anything on offense without Indiana's permission.
That same kind of defensive intensity (without the ten-minute letup at the end) would be nice to see on the road. Indiana may be able to clinch a Big Ten title with their performances in Assembly Hall, but if they want anything more than that this year, they'll have to start making performances like the one at Michigan much more common.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH FOR
- Robert Johnson vs. His Own Dang Mortality: We don't know RoJo's status for Thursday, or really the rest of the season. He's been slapped with the "out indefinitely" tag and Indiana has always played injury situations very close to the vest and this will be no different. If he is healthy enough to go, he should probably play. Trying to win a Big Ten road game with two scholarship guards isn't something you should attempt unless it's absolutely necessary.
- Thomas Bryant vs. The Refs: Indiana's freshman big man has seen his minutes reduced lately, but not by his coach. The officials of the Big Ten have been whistling him pretty closely all year and that has seemed to ramp up in recent games. It would be refreshing to see Bryant play out a clean game where he can be effective on both ends of the court without being hampered by whistles. Illinois doesn't offer much in the paint going either way, so this would be a good game to get back on track.
- Jalen Coleman-Lands (Indiana Kid vs. Indiana) vs. Nick Zeisloft (Illinois Kid vs. Illinois): Coleman-Lands is hitting 40.4% of his three pointers this year, while Zeisloft (despite being MIA for a couple of games) is hitting 41.5% of his. Neither team is particularly noteworthy for their perimeter defense, so this could turn into a somewhat interesting game of HORSE. Especially considering that Zeisloft could be in line to see a lot of RoJo's minutes.