Pre-gamin’: Illinois vs. Maryland

5:00 January 14, 2017

TV: ESPN2

Radio: 97.5 FM WHMS 1400 AM WDWS

Questions worth asking:

  1. How will success of the rotation against Michigan play out today? Freshmen Te’Jon Lucas and Kipper Nichols played big minutes against the Wolverines with mostly positive results. The Illini dished 21 assists, second only to the 28 they handed out against Division II McKendree. The offense had a flow and was creative and fun to watch. Lucas, Nichols, and Maverick Morgan played more; Jaylon Tate and Mike Thorne played less. DJ Williams missed the game for personal reasons, and we heard later that Tate was dealing with an illness. How do the minutes get distributed today with Tate and Williams assumedly ready to go? What about Big Mike? He’s a sixth-year senior and probably didn’t go through a grueling rehab to sit the bench. Groce says he needs everybody. We’ll see how the rotation develops going forward.
  2. Who will make the best adjustments? Just two-and-a-half weeks ago, Maryland blew Illinois out of the Xfinity Center College Park. The 25-point margin felt like more. In fact, Malcolm Hill frequently refers to it as a 30-pt loss. In that game, Maryland was down two centers. They’ve got one back for today’s game. Damonte Dodd reminds John Groce of former Illini center Nnanna Egwu, whose defensive efforts in the paint were not fully appreciated until he graduated in 2015. Just for fun:
  Opponent Field Goal % Blocks/game
Current Season 43.6 2.59
2015-2016 46.2 1.91
2014-2015 42.1 3.18
2013-2014 42.1 3.63

As always, there are a lot of factors that go into these numbers, but the team was certainly better defensively when Nnanna was patrolling the paint. And keep in mind there are a lot of Big Ten games left this season. Also, whew. The defense was awful last year.

  1. Is home court really that much of an advantage? The current Vegas line on this game is Illinois -2.1. After getting beat by 25 by this team without their starting center just 2.5 weeks ago? The State Farm Center isn’t going to be full today, what with the icy weather and students still not back from break yet. I love the spaceship on the prairie, but that’s a lot of ground to make up.

Final Thoughts

I’m going to be watching the lineup closely. Maryland is quicker and better defensively than Michigan. Will the new-look rotation be able to score with such efficiency against a better opponent? Also, the more Te’Jon and Kipper play, the more scouting material is available for opposing coaches. How will they adjust to adjustments? Should be a good game, but I’m thinking Maryland pulls it out by 5 or so.

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