5 massive questions for the Illinois basketball team against Iowa

Coming off a horrible loss to Penn State, the Illinois basketball team needs to bounce back. There are a few questions that I have entering a big game against Iowa on Saturday.

Feb 17, 2024; College Park, Maryland, USA;  Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Brad Underwood looks
Feb 17, 2024; College Park, Maryland, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Brad Underwood looks / Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
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It is not hyperbole when I say this might be the biggest game of the season for the Illinois basketball program.

If the Illini had won on Wednesday, I wouldn't be saying the game against Iowa on Saturday was a huge contest. But we didn't win on Wednesday. Illinois laid an egg against a below .500 Penn State squad.

This loss to the Nittany Lions has the panic button door wide open. While the panic button hasn't been hit yet, a loss or even a struggle on Saturday against the Hawkeyes will surely have me slamming my palm on that dangerous button.

Here are five massive questions for the Illinois basketball team against Iowa

1. Will Illinois be ready to play from the jump?

Illinois has a lot of talent and experience on the roster. This is a team that can put up points in bunches and suffocate an opponent at any given moment.

One of the most frustrating things about this Illinois basketball team is the fact they are sleepwalking through the first five or 10 minutes of the game. This doesn’t happen every time, but it does happen too often.

So, I want to see if Illinois can be awake from the start of the game. Can the Illini come prepared to play all 40 minutes against Iowa?

In the first 10 minutes of the game, Illinois was only up 20-19 on a near-.500 Maryland squad. Michigan State jumped on us and had a 15-14 lead through seven minutes. Nebraska also took us to task, as they had an 11-7 lead through five minutes and an 18-17 lead through 10 minutes.

On Wednesday night, it was much of the same against Penn State. Illinois was down 16-7 through five minutes against a sub-.500 Nittany Lions squad. Penn State led 25-20 10 minutes into the game as well.

You might be thinking that I am just cherry-picking games throughout the season for these four examples of Illinois starting slowly. You would be wrong. The four games I mentioned are four out of the past five games for the Illini. I could continue on, but you get the point. Illinois needs to come to the Iowa game prepared or it could be another long game.