Rayvonte Rice needs to be Rayvonte Rice: Rice had himself a game last Saturday against Indiana. The leading scorer for the Fighting Illini was able to score 20 points which was his highest scoring game since the last time Illinois played Indiana. During the nonconference part of the schedule, Illini fans became accustom to Rice scoring points consistently. However, that hasn’t been the case since the loss to Wisconsin. If Illinois wants to have any shot against Iowa this weekend, Rice cannot be the only scorer for the Illini, but he needs to be the one to get his team hot and keep them that way.
Bench production: In one way or another, the Illini bench and their production finds it’s way to make this list before each and every game. Yes, Illinois’ bench is full of freshman, but when will they turn the switch and become a major part of games (in a good way)? In the Illini’s last loss to the Hoosiers, the bench mustered up only 10 points, six rebounds, and five assists in a combined 67 minutes (four players). Kendrick Nunn, Jaylon Tate, and Malcolm Hill are the one’s getting the majority of the bench minutes for John Groce’s squad. These three will need to start producing for the Illini to start winning Big Ten games.
Control the paint defensively: In their overtime loss to #7 MSU, the Hawkeyes didn’t make a single basket in the final nine minutes of regulations. Part of this was due to the Spartans interior defense and how the guards were able to help the big guys down low. There’s no doubt that Coach Groce and the team have watched the film from that game and have a plan of attack on the defensive side of the basketball. However, if Nnanna Egwu can be the center piece defensively, Illinois will be in good shape to win their first game since January 4th.
Make sure to follow me on Twitter @RickyWidmer.