Know Thy Opponent: Illinois

  • 01/27/2011 11:03 am in

INDIANAPOLIS - MARCH 13: Head coach Bruce Weber of the Illinois Fighting Illini calls a play during their game against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the semifinals of the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 13, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)Perhaps the best way to describe this year’s incarnation of the Illini is Ohio State-lite.

They’re athletic. They have playmakers. They boast senior leadership in Demetri McCamey, Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale, while Jereme Richmond and Brandon Paul are youngsters that can’t be ignored.

Of course, they don’t quite come with the undefeated, top-team-in-the-country accolades. Though currently No. 20 in the AP poll, Illinois had a slip-up against UIC during the non-conference slate. And after back-to-back losses to Penn State and Wisconsin on the road and Saturday’s hard-fought loss against the Buckeyes inside the other Assembly Hall, they sit at 4-3 in Big Ten play.

This is a stout offensive team, one that pours in 1.14 point per possession (fourth in the conference). Thanks, in part, to a historic shooting night against Northwestern early in their Big Ten slate, the Illini have the top effective field-goal mark (58 percent) in the conference. It should come as no surprise, then, that this team can shoot the three, as they sit atop the conference with a strong 46.4 percent mark. If the Hoosiers are playing their pateneted “leave the peremiter shooters wide open” defense we’ve seen at times this season and the Illini are hitting, this one could get ugly early.

Illinois is also strong at the free-throw line, hitting 77.2 percent of its attempts (fourth) right behind of the Hoosiers at 77.3 percent (third).

Defensively, the Illini are solid relative to their Big Ten counterparts, ranking fourth in the conference at 1.06 points per posession. The Hoosiers and Illini are pretty even in the rebounding department, as their offensive rebounding percentage (Indiana: 32.2 percent, Illinois: 31.9 percent) and defensive rebounding percentage (Indiana: 67.8 pecent, Illinois: 68.1 percent) are near identical.

If there’s been one glaring weakness of this team in conference play so far, it’s that they’ve had trouble controlling the ball. With a turnover rate of 20.7 percent, only Iowa (23 percent) has fared worse.

Yet, this is certainly a game the Illini are looking to steal on the road, especially if they want to remain amongst the conference elite. I suppose how easy such a win will be for them depends on what version of the Hoosiers show up this evening — and whether or not Verdell Jones, who’s status is uncertain for tonight, is able to play.

All stats via statsheet.com.

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  • Luke72

    Time will tell which Hoosier team will show up! Rebounding will be a huge challenge regardless if VJ can play or not. Prichard, Elston and Watford will need inspired games to hold their own agbainst a much bigger line up. Jordy really needs to show that he can lead this team, make some shots and find the open man. The one thing is that they have one of the worst coaches in the Big Ten calling the plays! Let”s get Bruce at least one T for tonight! Best hope, get the Illini in foul trouble and hit the foul shots! Go Hoosiers!

  • Anonymous

    We have indeed patented the “leave the perimeter shooters wide open” defense. Ugh. I laughed at that line and then cried a little.

    Chances are we play tough, keep it close and then lose it in the final 8-10 minutes, regardless of whether VJIII plays. Certainly a winnable game if we play well and have the home crowd going, but I definitely do not expect to win. I just hope we play reasonably well enough that the fanbase doesn’t continue to go nuts about Crean’s coaching (and for that matter, I hope he fixes some of the stuff we continually complain about).

  • Anonymous

    Ugh, just looked at that basketball prospectus article you linked to. Not only does Illinois have two of the top three shooting nights of the past 5 years in the last month, but IU shows up later in that column for our “defense” against Ohio State a month back. What are the odds tonight’s game ends up on this list too? I’d say pretty damn high…

  • Two things stand out to me in this game:

    1) Illinois only allows opponents to shoot 30% from 3, good for 20th in the nation. We’re going to need to fight that stat or look for other ways to score
    2) Illinois doesn’t get to the line (304th in Nation), which is good for IU as people get to the line constantly on us. To me it shows Illinois relies a lot on jump shots, which hopefully IU can close out on a few of tonight.

    This game will be won on the defensive end for IU.

  • Here’s the way I look at every single game IU plays. I have come up with a very precise, yet fundamental formula for calculating whether IU comes up with the W or a Loss. Here is the formula (brace yourselves):

    Capobianco’s butt leaves his seat = Loss

    Capobianco’s butt stays in the sedentary position = Win

    BONUS FORMULA:
    Capobianco stays with the Hoosiers for next season = IU is bottom feeding again…

    Capobianco transfers to a MAC school: IU is middle of the road in the Big Ten for next season.

  • Anonymous

    I always appreciate attempts at humor, but seriously? Are we really going to blame Capo for how this season has gone? By no means is he a great player, but I’m going to go ahead and say that he has little to do with our shortcomings.

  • Anonymous

    I always appreciate attempts at humor, but seriously? Are we really going to blame Capo for how this season has gone? By no means is he a great player, but I’m going to go ahead and say that he has little to do with our shortcomings.

  • Anonymous

    I think just as important is if our frontcourt shows up at all and gives us something. If Pritch and DE in particular can stay out of foul trouble, rebound and give us maybe a combined 12-15 points that would be huge. If they both are on the bench with 2 PF’s with 10 minutes left in the 1st half, then I think it’s gonna be a long night…

  • Anonymous

    The matchup that I’m going to pay most attention to is Watford/Elston vs Mike Davis. I think Pritchard should be able to contain Tisdale, Rivers vs McCamey, Sheehey (better at home) vs Cole, and Hulls vs SG (ugh). If we can make Davis/Cole non-factors, then it should be a good game. Have played them tough the last two times, so I really don’t see any reason why we can’t play them tough the 3rd time and maybe have luck on our side to steal one this time.

  • Anonymous

    I’d think if Verdell can go he absolutely won’t miss out on this one since he’s from Champagne.

  • Anonymous

    Chances someone listens to Dakich just a little too much = %100

    Let’s just let the season play out and see what happens. The transfer speculation of any player at this point is really just absurd and really shows a lack of support for this team as it currently stands.

  • Anonymous

    I was talking to my friend from Purdue during their OSU game and he was complaining about how they couldn’t miss. I fed him some stats from our game and he shut up pretty quickly.

  • 11th and Done (Dunn)

    Too bad VJ3 probably won’t play.

  • JerryCT

    We are in desperate need for more than one of the unlikely sources to have a career night.

    My “sentimental” vote would go to Roth as an IL native and hungry for PT . My “most likely” vote would go to Sheehey ………… he is just more focused on D than VO.

    My “most needed” vote would go to Pritchard. He can handle Tisdale if the refs let him.

  • Casey B.

    I know ITH has a pretty clear policy on making personal attacks, so I’ll respectfully refrain.

    But I’d just like to say that Bruce Weber does not make an appearance in my “500 Favorite Active NCAA Men’s Basketball Coaches” list.

  • Anonymous

    Hopefully we are able to feed off of the home court advantage. We are 1-2 at home in the Big Ten and a .500 record would be very encouraging. I’m surprised by our decent FT % – hopefully we can get to the line more and beat them there. I’m looking for Elston to show me something tonight. He’s been off my “competitive” player list for some time now – just missing something imo. Looking for Hulls to rebound tonight and light it up. Looking for Watford to not force anything. Pritchard will have a good game if he doesn’t foul. Solid games from Oli, Sheehy, and Rivers. IU wins 68-63!

  • InTheMtns

    Jerry, I love your idea here – “sentimental” vote, “most likely” vote and”most needed” vote. And I ditto your choices. I might add “most hoped for” vote and that would go to a healthy knee for Verdell. Go Hoosiers!

  • Anonymous

    Let’s hope we don’t play to much help D. If a guard runs down to help our bigs, we will be giving up a lot of 3’s instead of 2’s.

  • Anonymous

    Hopefully, Elston will show up for a great performance. If he played like he is capable with any consistency, we would be a much more competitive team. I suppose that could be said for pretty much every player on the team, though.

    I want to see the real Assembly Hall packed and rowdy tonight. Go Hoosiers!

  • Marsh21

    Best in the nation? Wow, that’s a serious statement for a kid I can’t wait to graduate.

  • InTheMtns

    It’s often been commented on here at ITH that we don’t have good inbounds play. We need a money play like this.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XM4XmCiuX64&feature=player_embedded

  • Anonymous

    VJ has been playing better in the more recent games he has played – I would have echoed your statement (not quite as marshly) a few weeks ago, but this current team needs him this season and probably next so I’m not going to look that far ahead right now. “best in the nation” is a stretch though

  • Anonymous

    I am actually still trying to find out what Elston is capable of.

  • This question again? I think I’ve answered this about 100 times already.

    Our partner, Yard Barker, distributes ads to over 800 different blogs. There is no way to block specific ads from appearing and many of them are targeting based on geographic location. So while it’s not an ideal situation, it also helps keep this site free for everybody to read.

  • Anonymous

    If they don’t “let him”, then it’ll be a repeat with TP,DE, and Capo on the bench with 5 fouls and Tisdale shooting for a new record high from the free throw line

    GO IU!!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Sweet, you must absolutely love those 8 minute droughts we got through then.

  • Anonymous

    Illinois is one of the 3 to 5 most talented teams in the country, at least on paper. Yet they’re as up-and-down as we are. Plus, they seem to think that long, contested two’s are great shots.

    I think this game depends as much on which Illinois team shows up as it does which IU team does. If they play like they’re capable, IU can’t touch them. If they play like headcases it could get interesting.

    I think Jereme Richmond is the one guy that scares me. He’s the only guy they have with a real killer instinct, and he might be the second best NBA prospect in the Big Ten.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve seen them play a number of times, you’re right that they love long jump shots. Even Tisdale and Davis seem to prefer to shoot from 15+.

  • kentuckyhoosier

    Alex , do we have an Indiana ad on theres ?

  • kentuckyhoosier

    Hes capable of fouling …… sometimes flagrantly !!

  • Not that I am aware of.

  • Crean Faithful

    Agreed – not best in the nation… But definitely skeptical about “a kid I can’t wait to graduate.” Did you see the Iowa game? Or better yet the Wisconsin game??? VJ tore it up vs Wisconsin… then we get thumped by Iowa without em… I question the thought behind a statement such as this!

  • Crean Faithful

    Good coaches teach there system and make adjustments to fit the personnel. That is indisputable!!! The days of any kind of Indiana motion offense are gone. Sorry if you don’t like the system. It’s here to stay!

  • Marsh21

    Oh yes, I love them. I also like his defense, constant dribbling, inability to pass when penetrating because his head is down, weakside help and overall toughness. Oh I forgot his very low turnover rate. He’s the man on this team and will surely take us to the dance next year.

  • Marsh21

    What about tonight against IU?? No VJIII and a win against a top 20 team.

  • Marsh21

    UI instead of IU. I’m still shaking after the win!!!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    VJ could help a lot with continuous improvement

  • Anonymous

    He played pretty good defense tonight