What to Expect: Illinois

  • 02/08/2012 6:38 am in

After a road win over the Boilermakers on Saturday night in Mackey Arena, the Hoosiers return home to Assembly Hall for a Thursday night meeting with Illinois. The Fighting Illini have dropped four of five and are 1-3 on the road in Big Ten play.

The game will be shown on the Big Ten Network (Gus Johnson and Jimmy Jackson) and broadcast on the IU radio network (Sirius 94/XM 192):

With the meat of their Big Ten schedule out of the way, the Hoosiers will now have the luxury of finishing the conference slate with four of their six remaining games at Assembly Hall. Their two road single plays (Nebraska, Wisconsin) produced a pair of losses and now the Hoosiers will get their home single plays (Illinois, Northwestern) in back-to-back games.

The Fighting Illini have been the victim of some tough luck in recent weeks as their four losses since Jan. 19 have come by a combined total of 15 points. Bruce Weber’s club looks to be solidly in the NCAA Tournament field as of today, but with trips to Bloomington, Ann Arbor, Columbus and Madison still remaining, that could change.

Illinois is the Big Ten’s third worst offensive team in conference play at just .98 points per possession, but they’ve made up for it by giving up just .99 points per possession (4th in the conference). Their defense is anchored by the post presence of Meyers Leonard, a 7-foot-1 sophomore who is projected to go in the first half of next June’s NBA Draft. Leonard is a big reason why Illinois is the third-best shot blocking team in conference and the Illini are giving up a 2-point field goal percentage of 46.8.

Offensively, the story is much more grim for Illinois. They’re turning it over at a high rate in league play (22.2 TO%) and are shooting just 32.2 percent from 3-point range. The Illini have been effective inside the 3-point line (51.3% on 2s), but their offense has been mostly predicated on Brandon Paul hunting looks when he’s on the court. Paul is just one of three players in the conference using more than 28% of his team’s possessions.

Paul is the centerpiece and unquestioned go-to-guy on this Illini team. He’s already got a 43-point game under his belt in a win against Ohio State and while he’s not always efficient, he typically finds a way to put up points. Paul’s 127 free throw attempts lead the team. He’s a threat to get going from the perimeter, but is more effective and probably better suited attacking off the dribble. Paul also has a team-high 71 assists.

Joining Paul in the rotation are junior D.J. Richardson, sophomore Joseph Bertrand, freshman Tracy Abrams and senior Sam Maniscalco. Richardson is shooting 38.4 percent on 3s and takes care of the ball (13% TO) better than anyone else in the backcourt. Bertrand’s role has increased significantly in conference play and from the wing; he’s a 6-foot-5 slasher that is effective scoring around the basket (58.8 percent on 2s).

Adams has taken over the majority of Maniscalco’s minutes and is a solid distributor with an assist rate of 17.6 percent. Maniscalco was expected to be the answer at point guard as a postgraduate transfer from Bradley, but has battled an ankle injury and since his return on Jan. 19 at Penn State, has a total of just three points and seven assists in five games.

Up front, Leonard is the only reliable contributor on the roster. He’s second on the team in scoring and first in both rebounds and blocked shots. Leonard ranks as the Big Ten’s third best defensive rebounder behind Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Michigan State’s Draymond Green. His matchup with Cody Zeller will be intriguing as both players are both future first-round picks, but possess contrasting games. Leonard is far less polished and skilled offensively but is stronger on the glass, is more athletic and is a better shot blocker.

The Hoosiers are a 3-point loss to Minnesota away from being unbeaten at home and Illinois has won just two true road games all season. The advantage of playing in Bloomington’s Assembly Hall should continue to be one of the biggest advantages in all of college basketball. Pomeroy likes the Hoosiers by eleven (74-63) and gives Illinois just a 17% chance of pulling off the upset.

Filed to:

  • millzy32

    Plain and simple.  IMHO if VJIII plays significant minutes at PG we will most likely struggle to win this game and we might lose.  If he plays a complementary role coming off the bench and even more importantly off the ball and hits little medium range jumpers we will most likely win this game by double digits.  He serves a purpose on this team so don’t anyone think I want him to never play again I just don’t want to see him at point again.  Please don’t call me a hater of VJIII because I really do like the kid it’s just sometimes I like it when he’s on the bench cheering us on to victory.

  • MillaRed

    I really wanted Purdue to lose against OSU. Didn’t want them to have a reason to feel better. They were shooting lights out and would have beat us on that day. Too bad for them.

  • MillaRed

     Indeed. But I think he will be gone if they don’t make the dance.

  • MillaRed

     Indeed. But I think he will be gone if they don’t make the dance.

  • Bobbyd

     He said Cody was more athletic than Meyers. 

  • Bobbyd

     Wait… he did say that.  My bad.  Yeah, that’s is definitely not the case Alex.

  • JerryCT

    Yes , we have exploited help D too.

    Consider the stagger or double screen for the wing ( VJ3 and VO ) who then drive it back toward and into the lane ( if they can ) . In fact all they have to do is drive toward the wing in the weakside corner.

    At that point the weakside help defender, who is playing way off his man anyway, is encouraged or forced to drop further down on the driver leaving the Roth, Hulls, DE , WS, CW guys open for the 3’s . If they donot drop in then  VJ3 and VO can hit short jumpers or take it all the way depending on the congestion.

    IMHO it is always better to defeat this play early and not have to get into help situations ie defeat this at the first screen . This means making an aggressive play at that point not later on help D.

  • JerryCT

    I do dumb things like this ie count the dribbles before the first pass in the half court etc.

    For a few games I in fact have counted VJ3’s feeds to CZ and CW and what the result was. In one game he hit CW 3 times where he went 5/6 from the line and CZ 2 times for 4 pts.

    VJ3 is not afraid to deliver the feed in traffic ( sometimes a fault of his ) and Hulls is too fearful of it ( a fault of his IMO )

  • Tom S

    Won’t call you a hater.  But I will say you’re dead wrong in your analysis of VJIII’s value to this team.

  • Tom S

    Won’t call you a hater.  But I will say you’re dead wrong in your analysis of VJIII’s value to this team.

  • hoosierstateofmind

    Exactly, I’m worried about Paul too.  It seems like Illinois gets these guards who just love to go off on us and I’m worried that Paul could be the next one. It’s also probably because I’m driving down from Chicago for my one game this year in Bloomington and I really want to see them win.  

  • hoosierstateofmind

    I’m with you too Millzy.  I am not a VJIII hater either.  I think what he has done for our program can not be understated.  However, the entire offense moved with a smoothness and flow when Victor was at the point at Purdue that I haven’t really seen consistently this year.  The big ten seems to be all about who can get in the lane with the dribble and then make the smart heads up play to either finish at the rim or dish it.  With Victor on the point, you have a guy who can go right up to and above the rim so he demands the full attention of 1-2 guys.  That opens up so much more offensively than when VJIII or Hulls is the guy going to the rim b/c they are looking for layups instead of dunks.  I’d love to see us have Victor run the point, Hulls at the 2, CW/WS/CZ as our main lineup.  I like VJIII as coming in to replace Hulls and Remy in to replace Victor. 
    I know it seems Crean loves VJIII and I can understand why, but I like VJIII the same way I like The Pritch: off the bench and when needed, not as a key part of our game plan.  I think VJIII can still put up 10-15 in this role as the leader of our subs.  

  • Bleeding Crimson

    Keep Cody out of foul trouble using TP and Elston as soon as he gets his first foul, then back off the one on one and double Leonard and let our bench get him in foul trouble.

  • HoosierPat

    If you are saying you would rather see Hulls handle the ball, I disagree. Jones is a much better ball handler and is capable of turning the corner off of ball screens. Jones is capable of driving, which is important in the dribble drive offense. I would like to see the ball in Oladipo’s hands more though.

  • HoosierPat

    If you are saying you would rather see Hulls handle the ball, I disagree. Jones is a much better ball handler and is capable of turning the corner off of ball screens. Jones is capable of driving, which is important in the dribble drive offense. I would like to see the ball in Oladipo’s hands more though.

  • HoosierTrav

    Well put. Simple and true.

  • HoosierTrav

    Also if we finish on an 8 game streak we have absolutely no pressure to perform greatly at bt tourney. Can relax and hopefully exact some revenge on a few teams. I’d like to play wisconsin or nebraska in Indy. The next few games are crucial to us building momentum and confidence going into tourney time. Northwestern is going to give us fits but if we beat them I think we can definitely run the table. Let’s surprise everyone again Hoosiers. Not that it matters but make a sweet 16 and I think we are preseason top 5. Feels good to just have this as a possibility again. I think the purdue fans can sense the shift and the likely possibility that it won’t shift back for a long time. Ahhh!! I wonder if painter is rethinking his decision to choose PUke over Mizzou?

  • calbert40

    No kidding!  Our early conference schedule was ridiculous.  I told a friend that if we could go through the first nine games at 5-4, we could have a really strong record going into the tourney.  I still feel the same way.

    Obviously, what makes the B1G so tough this year is that there are NO easy wins.  Any team can beat you if you have a rough night, but there are some games that are more difficult than others.  Seems like we have all of those out of the way already, whereas Illinois has only played one of them.

  • Watching how NW zoned IL last weekend and how they are successfully in attacking man-to-man, I think we may see more 2-3 or 2-1-2 tomorrow night. Putting Olidipo and Wadford on top seems to have caused troubles if Elston and Zellers on on the court as well. IU needs to finish well in conference, 5-1 would be a big deal (a loss on the road) but one more win on the road along with protecting the home court. That kind of finish and a fair showing in the Big Ten (2 wins from the 5th seed) and they would be 26-7 and a solid 5th seed in the NCAA. A 5-12 draw and then a projected second game with a 4-13 seed would offer a big chance to getting into the second week.  That would make for a big move forward in the program.

  • Indiana N

    26-7 would be higher than a 5 seed

  • Indiana N

    26-7 would be higher than a 5 seed

  • Tom S

    I liked the way our offense worked against Purdue for a large part of the game.  I also liked the way our offense worked against teams like Kentucky, Ohio State, NC State, and others for a large part of the game. 

    I’d suggest that maybe the opponent had something – in fact, a lot – to do with any smoothness and flow in the offense on Saturday.

  • SCHoosier

    I consider everybody a threat with this group of IU players..still learning to win. I like our chances against ILL..but NW scares me to death with that junk offense they run.

  • WatchingYogi_atYogis

    I don’t think that anybody is going to change the way the assists stat is counted, but maybe we could invent our own stat to track that play… Fouls Induced or Fouls Initiated?

    I nominate JerryCT to keep track of them from now on. 

  • Southport65

    Lets see in the last 3 years Jones has 278 assists/230 turnovers Ratio=1.21
    Hulls has 217 assists and 145 turnovers ratio= 1.49 I left out VJ’s 1st year where he had 100 assists and 99 T/O. Jones is not the better ball handler and then add in that Hulls has played a lot more minutes. VJ also has a poor habit of putting his head down driving through traffic and putting up a weak or poor shot. Jordy seldom puts up a bad shot unless the time clock is running out. I am not saying jones is bad what I am saying is he is not a better ball handler and if he could have fixed the latter defect in his game he would have so many more assists. He is better this year but both guys are not true PG’S. Hulls should be a shooting guard and VJ a small forward so they could both use the better parts of their games but we do not have that option. We may have learned somethings about Remy and Vic and that will make us stronger at the PG position. Also Hulls is 6″ tall and at a disadvantage on defense against bigger players but he will not just give up on plays. Jones is 6’5″ with long arms he should be the better defender but at times he just gives up on defensive stops. I like both these kids and they deserve our support as fans but saying Jones is a better ball handler just is not true. It is to bad his High School coach did not teach him to play with his head up so he could see the whole court. To his credit he has said he wishes he were better with this but old habits are hard to break. Lets hope they all play team ball and get after the rest of out schedule. They have it in them! Go Hoosiers!

  • A. Schick

    JerryCT I really read through your post and could NOT AGREE MORE with the 35%/35/20% + 10% deviation for PG possession. I love Jordy as much as the next guy, but the second he gets double teamed he panics and tosses it. As maligned as he is, when VJ3 is on, he is far and above our best ball handler. The issue is, even when VJ3 is on, he’s still not a top ball handler for the conference. And VJ3 is still the only one who can actually get Cody the ball. 

    WHAT MY BIGGEST PEAVE IS: When Jordy and VJ3 are on the court together, whichever two of them is open needs to run open ball screens a la Reggie Miller. Both of them are good enough to create their own shot off screens but not good enough to do it on their own (we’ve seen Jordy display flashes of it). 

  • BooHag

    Who is IU’s team captain this year?

  • CreamandCrimson

    Very interesting blog from Terry Hutchens on Indy Star.  He checked in with each of IU’s non-conference opponents and the records have been fairly encouraging. 
    -Stony Brook is 11-1 in their conference.
    -Evansville is 7-7 in the Valley.
    -Savannah State is 7-2.
    -NC State is 6-3 and Notre Dame is 7-3.
    -Kentucky is 10-0.

    Of course, there are some dregs on there.  Chattanooga, Howard and UMBC are near the bottom of their league.  Overall though, the non-conference schedule had some good low-majors on there that haven’t killed IU’s RPI and have gotten nice performances from NC State, ND and Kentucky.

  • Robert_Montgomery

    Alright, here’s my quick rant for the morning.

    Against Purdue, I think we finally saw a little bit of that “swagger” this team carried with them early in the year.  It seemed to disappear after that Ohio State win, whether because of complacency or arrogance I don’t know, but we became entitled and lost the identity that had gotten us to where we were.

    After taking a few lumps and getting some different guys some minutes and confidence (Pritch, Elston, Remy) I really think we are much better off than we were before.  The question that is yet to be answered, is can we take those lessons and translate them into the type of hard-nosed, blue-collar efforts that we are going to need down the stretch in Big Ten play, the conference tourney, and the NCAA’s?
     
    Tonight will be a huge step towards rebuilding that confidence if we can come out and just put the pedal to the floor and show Illinois why IU basketball is back.  They have some good players, but this Illini team has no business coming into Assembly and leaving with a W.

    Anyways, GO HOOSIERS!!!  Get it done tonight!

  • IUMIKE1

     We must be digesting the same thing cause my gut tells me the exact same thing. Yea there have been things to be perturbed about this year but at the start of the year just about any of us would have took where we are right now. With a comparable jump next year we should have the consistency to compete on the road every game and turn what were close losses this year into wins next year.

  • IUMIKE1

     We must be digesting the same thing cause my gut tells me the exact same thing. Yea there have been things to be perturbed about this year but at the start of the year just about any of us would have took where we are right now. With a comparable jump next year we should have the consistency to compete on the road every game and turn what were close losses this year into wins next year.

  • IUMIKE1

     I don’t know, I think if they miss the big dance but do decent in the NIT he is still there next year…..but he might want to invest in a seat that comes with a strong fan on it.

  • IUMIKE1

    That’s a whole lot of keystrokes you just saved me.

    Thanks

  • IUJeff

    I expect Bruce to whine and make ugly faces as usual.

    I am really glad the stud high school players from Indiana choose not to go there.

  • Tom S

    To the extent that A:T ratio tells us anything, this year’s ratios – in my opinion the only year that matters – are 1.44 for Hulls, 1.35 for Verdell.  Make of that what you will.

    If we’ve learned some things about Remy and Vic that help us at that position, great.  At the beginning of the year the point was my biggest concern, and it still is. But I haven’t seen anything from either of them yet that makes me think they can be effective point guards TODAY against top-level competition. Frankly, I’m more excited by some things on the offensive end that I’ve seen from Hulls over the last few games. 

    Defensively, Jones is clearly better than Hulls.  Is he a great defender?  No.  But he’s clearly better than Hulls.  It’s not even close.

  • OldIUGymnast

    Gordon is riding the pine with an injury – maybe he can make it.