It’s been a busy month for both Illinois and Indiana since the teams last faced off in Champaign on January 19th. The Hoosiers were climbing their way out of the basement of the conference, while Illinois was adjusting to the recent departure of highly-touted freshman Skyy Clark.
The Illini have gone 4-2 in the six games since Indiana beat them on the road, putting them near the middle of the pack in the conference at 8-6. Brad Underwood also suffered another departure from the program in Zacharie Perrin, who stepped away from the team this week to return home to France, but he was averaging just two minutes a game, so he wasn’t a huge factor.
The most impressive win for the Illini since Indiana saw them last was a nine point win over rutger in the State Farm Center. The computers still like rutger, but the scarlet knights are in the midst of a three game losing streak, so Illinois may have caught them at the right time.
Outside of that win, Illinois’ three other wins since it last played Indiana have come against the bottom three teams in the conference. Meanwhile, the Illini dropped road games against Iowa and Penn State in the last month and have yet to pick up a quality conference road game yet this season.
Indiana is favored in this game and should be okay so long as it has some scoring around Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino, which hasn’t been as much of a challenge at home as it has been on the road. In the road win at Champaign this year, the Hoosiers had four scorers in double digits to compliment a 35 point night from Trayce.
I don’t know that I would count on that many contributors the second time around, especially since Jordan Geronimo has still been seeing minutes limitations recently and Race Thompson is still recovering to game speed. Still, Indiana won by a comfortable margin last time and should have some room to breathe even if it doesn’t play a perfect game.
One thing to watch for is how Brad Underwood handles Trayce this time around. He made the dubious decision of letting Dain Dainja try to guard him one-on-one last game, which led to Trayce going off for a season-high 35 points.
I would expect Underwood to try something else this time, so Indiana will need to be ready for quick doubles. It cannot have another offensive first half like last game and expect to beat this Illinois group.
Then again, I wouldn’t have expected Underwood to have done it in the first place, much less stick to it for 30+ minutes while Trayce ran up the score. Sometimes its better to not even try to predict what the, uh, best minds in basketball are up to.