3 Illinois basketball stats that need to improve before the NCAA tournament

Feb 13, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Ty Rodgers (20) pressures
Feb 13, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Ty Rodgers (20) pressures / Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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2. Personal fouls per game

Some of the numbers on this list aren’t bad yet, but they seem to be trending in the wrong direction. This is one of those stats. Illinois has been pretty good about not fouling a lot this season.

As of February 9, Illinois was one of the best teams in the country when it came to fouling. We were averaging 14.0 fouls per game, which ranked No. 11 in the nation. That is solid discipline and a quality that will help the Illini down the road when games are on the line.

But this lack of fouling has slipped the past couple of contests. In the loss to Michigan State, Illinois racked up 24 fouls in the game. This was the most fouls by the Illini this season. The 24 fouls led to the Spartans making 17 free throws.

I was hoping this would be a one-off for the Illini but it wasn’t. Illinois came back on Tuesday night and had another 21 fouls against Michigan. 21 fouls are the third-most this season.

After those two bad foul outings, Illinois is now averaging 14.8 fouls per game and ranks No. 25 in the country. I am not at the level where I am extremely worried, but back-to-back games where fouls are an issue are starting to throw up some flags.

It seems that teams are playing Luke Goode well. They are getting him into the paint and drawing fouls against him. He has eight fouls in the past two games. On top of that, Illinois struggled playing Michigan State in the paint. They got a bit of home cooking, so it was tough for the Illini to not be in foul trouble.

I would be surprised if Illinois hits 20 fouls again for the rest of the season. But if we do, this is a stat that needs to get under control before the NCAA tournament. Having key players get into foul trouble would be bad in March.