When the #1 team comes into your building it’s pretty easy to get pumped up for the game, even if your once promising season is turning into a likely NIT bid as the season progresses. The “you” I’m referring to is obviously Illinois, who has only two wins in 2013. However, John Groce shouldn’t have to go all Gene Hackman on his team just to get them to believe. The talent is there for the most part. Will the Illini play like Purdue did, or like Iowa did, when trying to their defend home court against the Hoosiers?
Illinois is one of the most inefficient teams in the conference, both offensively and defensively. Even Michigan, the nation’s most efficient offense, had trouble getting their normal shots against Indiana’s defense. With little to no inside threat, the Hoosiers can focus on the one thing that makes Illinois dangerous, its three point shooting. Brandon Paul, Tracy Abrams, and D.J. Richardson will put them up without thinking twice. They will make some tonight that they haven’t hit all year in conference because that is what teams do when they host the top ranked team. You will see a lot of teams play out of their mind (See: TCU vs Kansas) against a highly ranked team, but this team doesn’t even have to do that to beat Indiana. This will be the game that either turns their season around or speeds up the free fall.
With that, here is the scouting report for tonight’s game:
Game time: 7:00 p.m. Thursday, February 7, 2013
TV: ESPN (Joe Tessitore & Sean Farnham)
Illinois Fighting Illini 15-8 (2-7) Rank: 56 KenPom
#13 Tracy Abrams: 6-1 185 So. G 11.4ppg 3.3apg 3.7rpg
-When Brandon Paul isn’t playing, expect Abrams to be the one with the ball in his hands the most. His 3-pt shot has been broke in conference (so has everybody else’s on this team), only shooting 25% (6-24). From a Hoosier standpoint, the more shooting and less penetration from Abrams the better.
#1 D.J. Richardson: 6-3 195 Sr. G 11.8ppg 1.7apg 4.4rpg
-Richardson is the less aggressive/less head case/better defender version of Brandon Paul. Richardson is a good athlete but over half of his shots are threes. Perfect guy for Hulls to guard.
#3 Brandon Paul: 6-4 200 Sr. G 17.4ppg 2.9apg 4.6rpg
-All was great for Paul at the beginning of the season; his shot was dropping, his team was winning and he was putting 35 up on Gonzaga like it was nothing. Now, he doesn’t even start (I put him as a starter because I believe he will for this game), he can’t find his shot and I think all his problems are coming from in between the ears. He still has NBA potential but if Groce doesn’t think he should be starting on this team, there won’t be a lot of NBA teams interested.
#2 Joseph Bertrand: 6-6 195 Jr. G 8.7ppg 0.7apg 4.6apg
-Bertrand has great hops and is their best shooting 3-point man percentage wise (36%) but he has missed his last 12 attempts coming into this game. Bertrand used to come off the bench but started for Paul last game.
#32 Nnanna Egwu: 6-11 235 So. F-C 6.6ppg 0.6apg 4.8apg
-Egwu is their only decent inside presence but that is really just for the defense side of the ball. He is a good rebounder and shot blocker but he has shown me nothing that Cody Zeller should have to worry about.
Coming off the bench:
#0 Sam McLaurin: 6-8 220 Sr. F 4.0ppg 0.5apg 3.6rpg
-Sam has been starting the last few games but still hovers around 20-25 minutes a game. He provides help on the boards and can give up his 5 fouls if need be.
#42 Tyler Griffey: 6-9 220 Sr. F 6.7ppg 0.6apg 3.1rpg
-The big man coming off the bench likes to shoot the three but only knocking it down 33% (24-73) of the time. I don’t know if the Illini are having a competition or what but Griffey is ahead of Bertrand for consecutive 3-pt misses coming into this game with 20 straight bricks.
#20 Myke Henry
Keys to the game:
- It’s pretty obvious. Don’t let Illinois get going from the outside and we will see the 2-7 team. Let them get a few early looks and get their confidence flowing, and we will probably see the 12-0 team. I vote the 2-7 team.
- I have heard this is a being called a “trap” game or a “must-win” game. You guys are silly. The Hoosiers aren’t looking ahead and they don’t have to win this game. If Illinois beats them, which they won’t, they will have earned it. Whatever the result, just remember, Kansas sucks more than either team.
- My breakout performer for this game will be…. Yogi Ferrell. The dude is shooting 62% from the field and 91% from the line in the last four games. I’m predicting he goes for 19 points and 6 assists.