The Illinois Fighting Illini basketball team returns to the court in just under an hour to face the top seeded Michigan Wolverines in a game that has fans talking all around Illini nation. Nnanna Egwu threw a block party yesterday, and Tracy Abrams exploded to lead Illinois with 25 points to down the Hoosiers and set up the re-match with Michigan. In order for Illinois to make some more noise they are going to need performances like these from their line-up mainstays.
Some believe that there is absolutely no way the Illini make the dance without running the table and winning this Big Ten tournament, but there could actually be hope to believe otherwise.
Following their 10 point victory over Indiana yesterday, suddenly, thoughts of possibly making the NCAA tournament field for the second year in a row have begun creeping back into Illini fan’s heads once again. In order for them to fully insert themselves back in to the discussion the Illini are in an absolutely must win situation against the Wolverines. Win today, and they’ll have hit 20 wins on the season, a former standard for inclusion into the discussion.
Do they actually have a chance of knocking off the Wolverines today even though they were pummeled at home by these same Michigan men just 10 days ago? Of course they do.
Sure, Michigan set a State Farm Center record for made three pointers in the last meeting, but that Wolverine team was playing inspired because they were trying to take home an outright Big Ten regular season championship. They were focused, and that focus turned in to 69.6% shooting from three point range. It sucked the life out of Illinois that night, but it should also be noted that it was the only loss Illinois has suffered in their last 6 games.
The Wolverines three point shooting returned to Earth in their next outing, an 84-80 win over Indiana, as they shot 26.7% from distance.
Illinois needs to bring their brand of stifling defense to the table today, and defend the perimeter as hard as they possibly can. If they do that, and limit Nik Stauskas, they’ll have a legit shot at upending the Wolverines today.
Normally, this is the part where I list three things I’d like to see, but today is really very simple. Illinois needs to value the basketball, defend like there is no tomorrow, and win the rebounding battle. If they win all three of those phases I really like their chances today.
When: Friday, March 14 – 11 AM CST
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse – Indianapolis, IN
TV: ESPN (Directv 206 / DISH Network 140)
Announcers: Mike Tirico (Play by Play), Dan Dakich (Analyst), and Allison Williams
Feel free to drop back in during the game and chat with other Illini fans in the comments section below with any observations you may have!