Illinois Basketball: Alan Griffin’s return is needed for the Illini

The Illinois basketball team is about to get one of their solid bench players back for a tough stretch of games.

I think we all remember the, for lack of a better term, misstep that Alan Griffin took during the Purdue game a little less than two weeks ago. Griffin’s boneheaded move landed him a two-game suspension, which was actually three games because he only played three minutes before the misstep.

Through that three-game suspension, Illinois managed to go 3-0 but barely squeaked out wins on the road against Michigan and at home on Thursday against Minnesota. These games probably would have been a lot easier with Griffin coming off the bench. But does Griffin make that big of a difference?

Yes, he does.

Without Griffin on the team, Illinois has one scoring threat off the bench and that is Andres Feliz. He is more of a driver, though. There isn’t a single player I am comfortable with shooting the three-point shot off the bench. Griffin is literally our only perimeter threat when it comes to bench play.

The numbers back up that Griffin is an important part of this Illini team too. Out of the current seven-game winning streak, we have played the first four with Griffin and the last three without him. In the first four games the Illini played with him on the court, the bench averaged 20.25 points, 13 rebounds and 3.75 assists per game.

When you look at the last three games Illinois didn’t have Griffin on the court, the numbers drop for the bench. The bench only produced 14 points, 10 rebounds and 3.33 assists per game in the last three contests.

So, if you look at the numbers with Griffin, the Illini average over seven more points per game, three more assists per game and about half of an assist more per game. All of the metrics increase with Griffin on the court.

The fact we can lose that much production and still go 3-0 is something special. Can you just imagine how easy those games would have been if we had Griffin around?

The next five games are against ranked opponents. We are going to need Griffin’s bench production if we want to come out of this stretch at least 4-1. Let’s put this boneheaded error behind us so we can continue making a run at the regular-season Big Ten title.