5 huge questions for the Illinois basketball team against Michigan

Illinois basketball is at a bit of a crossroads when it comes to the 2023-24 season. On Tuesday, a wounded Michigan team comes to town, and this is a great chance for the Illini to get back on the wagon.

Illinois v Michigan State
Illinois v Michigan State / Rey Del Rio/GettyImages
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I would like to forget that Michigan State loss and a good way to do that is for the Illinois basketball team to trounce Michigan on Tuesday.

It has been a rocky road the last couple of weeks for the Illini. This is the most nervous I have been for Illinois this season, and I need my nerves to take a break. Illinois needs to start winning again.

Michigan comes to Champaign on Tuesday, and this is a chance for the Illini to get back on the winning track. There will be a few things I am going to be keeping an eye on, though.

Here are five huge questions for the Illinois basketball team against Michigan

1. Can Illinois start playing defense again?

I am old enough to remember when the Illinois basketball team had a good defense. It was only a few weeks ago.

Over the past couple of games, the Illini have played some of the worst defense of the season. It has been hard to watch, as opponents have been able to get into the lane and knock down shots from three-point range.

So, on Tuesday, I want to see if Illinois can tighten things up defensively. Can the Illini start playing defense again?

In the overtime win over Nebraska, the Illini looked terrible on the defensive end of the court. The Cornhuskers were 12-of-28 from three-point range, which is 42.9%. I was hoping that would just be a one-off, but I was wrong. Illinois followed that up by allowing Michigan State to go 5-of-8 from three-point range, which is 62.5%.

The lousy defense goes beyond just three-point shooting, though. Illinois hasn’t been able to force many turnovers. An Illini opponent hasn’t had double-digit turnovers in the last five games, and only one team has had double-digit turnovers out of the past nine games.

Illinois’ lack of forcing turnovers has been a problem this season. Our opponents are averaging 9.2 turnovers per game, which ranks No. 349 out of 362 DI programs. That is horrific. Illinois needs to start playing defense.