The Illinois Fighting Illini will begin their journey for a national title on Friday against the (10) Colorado Buffaloes in Austin, Texas.
With tip-off being only hours away, here are five keys to victory for Illinois’ Second Round game against Colorado…
Rebounding the basketball has not been a strong point for the Illinois Fighting Illini this season. They have been out-rebounded as team in their last three games and their leading rebounder is only averaging 4.6 rebounds per game this year. On the other hand, Andre Roberson is Colorado’s leading rebounder and he is averaging 11.3 rebounds per game. Illinois will need to play a physical game today and will need to try and limit Roberson’s rebounding numbers. Remember, long shots equal long rebounds.
2) Make it to the foul line early and often
One of the biggest strengths for a team in the NCAA Tournament is free throw shooting. Illinois has done this very well this season. In the Big Ten conference tournament, they averaged around 90% from the foul line against both Indiana and Minnesota. Most of those free throws came against the Hoosiers where the Fighting Illini went 19-of-21 from the foul line. This is something they will need to do early and often to have success in their first tournament game this year. If Colorado needs to foul in order to extend the game towards the end, Illinois should be able to win.
3) Take smart shot
In their last game against Indiana, Illinois did not shoot the ball very well. The Illini looked like they were just shooting random shots and gave the Hoosiers the chance to out run them in transition. Brandon Paul especially didn’t shoot well. He shot 15.4% from the field. Paul scored 16 points, but eleven points came from foul shots. Illinois will need to either pass the ball around for a smart shot from beyond the arc or look to drive to the basket in order to get to the foul line.
4) Force turnovers
In their win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Big Ten conference tournament, Illinois forced a boatload of turnovers. Minnesota turned the ball over seventeen times compared to Illinois’ five. Colorado turned the ball over 13 times in their loss to the Arizona Wildcats in the Pac-12 tournament. The Illini should be in good shape if they play defense like they did against Minnesota in the Big Ten conference tournament. However, forcing turnovers will not be enough. They will also need to take care of the ball. Against Indiana, the Fighting Illini forced 13 turnovers, but committed twelve.
5) Get Brandon Paul going early against Andre Roberson
Colorado has come out and said that Andre Roberson will at least begin the game guarding Brandon Paul. The main reason for this is Roberson’s size. He is 6’7″ compared to Paul’s 6’4″. Roberson mentioned to the Denver Post that he is “going to try to not give any breathing room, dictate where he goes, not where he wants to go, just be aggressive with him.” Although, as head coach John Groce said in his press conference, “it is not Roberson v.s. Paul, but Illinois v.s. Colorado.” It is going to be a team game, but getting Paul going against Roberson would be a major boost for the Illini.
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