Pre-gamin’: Illinois vs. Northwestern

7:00 February 21, 2017


Radio: 97.5 FM WHMS 1400 AM WDWS

Questions Worth Asking

  1. How will Northwestern star Scottie Lindsey’s return affect the rematch? Illinois won at Northwestern earlier this month, 68-61. Lindsey, who leads the Wildcats in scoring at 15.0 points per game, missed that match with a case of mono. He recently returned to the lineup and went 2-8, scoring 6. It probably will take the junior guard a few games to get his wind and his rhythm back, but Northwestern is a much more dangerous team with him on the court. He’ll likely draw Malcolm Hill’s defensive attention, leaving Te’Jon Lucas, Tracy Abrams, and Jalen Coleman-Lands to pick up Northwestern’s other two guards, Vic Law and Bryant McIntosh, both of whom are averaging over 13 points per game. Law, in particular, may be a difficult match as he’s an athletic 6-7. Lindsey’s return will have a ripple effect.
  2. Speaking of guys who have been banged up, Illinois has a couple of their own. John Groce mentioned Leron Black had been dealing with nagging injuries of late, and Te’Jon Lucas sported a wrap on his left hand after injuring it in the win over Iowa. Lucas and Groce both insist it’s a minor thing and that he’s healing well and will be fine for tonight, but it does draw attention to the fact that at this point in the season, many players are dealing with injuries and fatigue. How will the Illini deal with these challenges? It’s gut-check time, as the regular season grinds on and the adrenaline of “win or go home” tournaments has yet to kick in.
  3. The big question will continue to be, What happens next year? The Illini and their coach preach taking things game by game, living in the present, and not looking back or forward. Personally, I think this is an unrealistic and not entirely helpful mantra in the strictness in which it seems to be applied here. Yes, the present moment is the moment of decision, the moment of action, but those decisions and actions are based on the past and past experiences and are intended to have future effects. Past, present, and future are all intimately tied together in the moment of being. Maybe some of the puzzling decisions made this season can be tied back to this refusal to give past and future their due consideration? I don’t know the reality behind the rhetoric, but maybe Illinois’ lack of foundation and direction can be traced to a problematic philosophy.

Final Thoughts

Every game from here on is a must-win for the Illini. They’ve got a good shot today at a Northwestern team they handled in Evanston. Scottie Lindsey’s return changes the dynamic, but so does playing at the State Farm Center. Northwestern, too, has a lot at stake. Right now they’re lined up to make their first NCAA tournament in school history, but all that can change if they don’t keep winning. It should be a good  game tonight. It’s hard to beat a team twice in the same season, and Illinois has struggled with consistency. Could go either way, but I’m picking the ‘Cats by 5.

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