Game Info / How to Watch:
Who? #25 Indiana Hoosiers (10-5, #29 KenPom) vs. Illinois Illini (11-4, #69 KenPom)
When? Saturday, January 7th, 5:00 PM, ESPNU
Where? Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Indiana
Vegas? INDIANA -9
Pomeroy? Indiana by 10, 80% chance of Indiana victory
The Twelve Days of Christmas were about as unkind to Indiana Athletics as that two weeks can be. It delivered a three game losing streak to the basketball team, that began with a home loss to #82 Nebraska and a heartbreaking bowl defeat to the football team. The panic button has been (deservedly) slammed among the Hoosier faithful as the bad results pile up and their chances at a second-consecutive Big Ten title get slimmer and slimmer. In fact, if Wisconsin can go into Mackey Arena and win on Sunday (far easier said than done), the Badgers would become awfully difficult to dislodge out of the top of the table. They would only have one more game against a Top-30 opponent and it's at home against #29 Indiana, who could very well be far lower than that by then.
Or- far higher!
I'll maintain (for at least one more game) that Indiana is a far better team than they've shown the past couple of weeks. They're completely broken right now, but losing to Louisville and Wisconsin aren't particularly alarming things taken separately, combine them with a loss to Nebraska and you, understandably, get the reaction we're seeing and feeling now. Indiana didn't get run out of their own building by the Badgers, after showing up late they settled in and went back and forth with the #10 KenPom team.
Granted, Indiana shouldn't be dropping home games to anyone, and to drop two straight is nearly unheard of. So how likely would a cataclysmic third straight home, conference loss be?
HERE WOULD YOU LIKE SOME FACTORS?
|INDIANA (#14 Adj. Offense)||57.7 (6th)||21.8 (311th)||41.8 (5th)||39.6 (78th)|
|ILLINOIS (#73 Adj. Defense)||49.5 (158th)
||25.7 (43rd)||29.0 (64th)
|INDIANA (#78 Adj. Defense)||45.4 (40th)||16.0 (317th)||26.7 (68th)||28.7 (58th)|
|ILLINOIS (#87 Adj. Offense)||52.2 (95th)||20.1 (239th)||30.9 (142nd)||39.1 (94th)
Illinois is in Year 5 of John Groce, the second-most famous alumnus from Danville (IN) High School and things aren't great! After making the NCAA Tournament in Year 1 the Illini haven't been back since and their KenPom ranked dropped each year before cratering last season at 125 after injuries decimated the roster. They're better this season but probably still headed for the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. They're coming off their best win of the season, a victory over #48 Ohio State in Champaign.
Tracy Abrams is, at last, healthy after missing the last two years with consecutive off-season tears of his ACL and Achilles. He's been a bright spot as well, second on the team in offensive rating and hitting 45.6% of his threes with good assist and steal numbers as well. It's difficult not root for him to do well in his last season after all he's been through.
Leading the Illini, however, is Malcolm Hill and the campaign he's putting together would probably garner some B1G Player of the Year attention if he can guide Illinois into the upper half of the conference. The 6-6 senior is using the most possessions and taking the most shots of anyone on the roster and shooting 53.9% eFG, dishing out more assists than turnovers, and drawing a ton of fouls (and hitting 78.6% of his freebies). He's certainly the toughest cover on this Illinois squad, and it's hard to see Illinois being victorious in Bloomington without a monster game from him, at least.
Talented sophomore and INDIANA KID Jalen Coleman-Lands returns to Assembly Hall and has regressed a bit from his promising freshman campaign. After hitting 42.2% of his threes last season, he's down to 31.5% this year and turning the ball over quite a bit more. You don't need me to tell you that a breakout game in front of the Indiana fanbase would not only be unsurprising, but essentially expected.
STUFF TO WATCH FOR
- Prepare for Spaghetti Basketball: A good friend of mine once referred to an unnamed Indiana player as looking like he was playing with his pockets full of spaghetti that would fall out during the game, causing him to slip and lose the ball. Since that day, we refer to bad, turnover-heavy sequences as Spaghetti Basketball and, friends, get ready for large helpings of it on Saturday. Both teams are turning the ball over on more than 20% of their possessions and despite neither team being particularly adept at forcing turnovers, neither Indiana nor Illinois need any assistance in shooting themselves in the foot.
- Illinois' A/FGM (305th) vs. Indiana's dA/FGM (21st): The A/FGM isn't the gold standard of judging a team offensively or defensively and combined with the rest of Indiana's defensive numbers it suggests that the reason Indiana is so good at limiting their opponent's assist totals is because they're getting mercilessly beat one-on-one quite frequently. Given the numbers for the Illini, it's clear it won't be disruptive to their offense to not be able to drive and dish. Expect Illinois to challenge Indiana off the dribble early and often.
- Offensive Rebounding: It's literally the only thing currently working for Indiana. Their ability to gather in their misses (of which there are plenty as of late) helps mitigate their poor shooting and their turnovers to a certain extent. Illinois isn't bad on the defensive glass (43rd) but if the Hoosiers can't pull down their fare share, and everything else remains the same, things could get very, very ugly on Saturday.