What to expect: Illinois

  • 01/24/2018 10:16 am in

Indiana’s first of three one-day turnarounds on the road in the next two weeks will tip tonight at the State Farm Center in Champaign. Following Monday’s hard fought 71-68 win over Maryland, the Hoosiers will take on Illinois in primetime. The Fighting Illini are 10-11 overall and 0-8 in the Big Ten.

The game will be broadcast on BTN at 9 p.m. ET with Kevin Kugler and Shon Morris on the call:

The biggest downfall with this season’s Big Ten schedule is the ridiculous number of one-day turnarounds. Each team played on a one-day turnaround in early December – which was more than enough – but we’re now to the point of the season where IU’s schedule gets downright silly.

As Dylan Burkhardt pointed out yesterday in his weekly power rankings over at The Athletic ($), Indiana is one of four (!) Big Ten teams that will play four (!) league games on a one-day turnaround. (For those scoring at home, Purdue and Wisconsin are playing just once on a one-day turnaround and that was the early December game.)

This, of course, was done to accommodate the new television schedule that has the conference playing games every day of the week. And it’s probably not going to change in the future as the league expands to 20 games next season.


Brad Underwood left Oklahoma State after one season last spring to come to Champaign, one of three offseason coaching changes in the Big Ten.

It’s been a rough start for Underwood in the Big Ten as the Illini are the only program without a league win despite being close in several recent games. Illinois is 0-3 at home in conference play with a pair of overtime losses (Maryland and Iowa) and a 13-point loss to Michigan State.

The Illini are playing a ten-man rotation and are led by redshirt junior Leron Black, who is averaging a team-high 14.4 points per game. The 6-foot-7 Black is an efficient finisher (78.4 percent at the rim) and is also shooting 51 percent on 2-point jumpers. According to Synergy Sports, Black has scored 86 points on 84 post-up possessions.

Junior Michael Finke starts up front with Black and the 6-foot-10 forward is third on the team in scoring at 10.2 points per game. Finke is shooting just 13.6 percent on 3s in Big Ten play, but is 14th in the conference in offensive rebounding percentage.

Kipper Nichols, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, comes off the bench and has the 10th highest usage rate in the league. Nichols has been a very good rebounder in conference play – he’s tenth in offensive rebounding percentage and 11th in defensive rebounding percentage – and is shooting 46.5 percent on 2s and 34.8 percent on 3s.

Freshman big Greg Eboigbodin has seen his role grow since the start of conference play and he’s shooting an efficient 79.2 percent on 2s against Big Ten opponents.

The Illinois backcourt and wing positions are essentially by committee in terms of how minutes are distributed. Freshman Trent Frazier is the only guard averaging in double figures at 11.1 points per game. Frazier is shooting 55.1 percent on 2s in Big Ten games and is 11th in steal percentage.

He’s joined in the lineup by freshman Mark Smith and junior Aaron Jordan. Smith, a consensus top 100 recruit, has struggled from the perimeter (24.1 percent). Jordan is a solid athlete and the team’s best 3-point shooter (48.5 percent).

Grad transfer Mark Alstork, freshman Da’Monte Williams and sophomore TeJon Lucas all come off the bench. Alstork averaged 19 points per game last season at Wright State, but as is the case with many grad transfers who try to move up, has had to accept a lesser role. Alstork is averaging just 6.1 points per game, which is seventh on the team.


The Illini rank in the top half of the league in just a few notable categories: opponent turnover percentage (first), steal percentage (second) and offensive rebounding percentage (second). Underwood continues to stick with relentless defensive pressure despite the 0-8 league record. Last season at Oklahoma State, he adjusted his defense midseason and the Cowboys went on a run and reached the NCAA tournament.

The Hoosiers are the Big Ten leader in steal percentage and are right behind Illinois in defensive turnover percentage. The difference is Indiana is much better in taking care of the ball, which is going to be important tonight.

Free throws are also going to be pivotal as Illinois is the most foul prone team in the league with an opponent free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 48.6 percent. Indiana is last in the conference in free throw percentage at 67.6 in conference games.


Ken Pomeroy projects a 3-point Illinois win (41 percent chance of an IU win) and the Sagarin ratings like Illinois by just over a point. Vegas likes Illinois by two.

This is one of three swing road games that will go a long way in determining where the Hoosiers end up in the league standings. The other two games on that list are at Rutgers on Feb. 5 (43 percent chance of an IU win) and at Iowa on Feb. 17 (37 percent chance of an IU win).

Indiana has played well in Champaign in recent seasons with wins in 2015 and 2016, but this Hoosier team is just 1-5 in true road games. Ultimately, this contest will likely come down to how well Indiana can take care of the ball against the Illini pressure and make free throws in what should be a somewhat hostile environment.

(Photo credit: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images North America)

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  • vicbert caladipo

    We can’t win relying on JM bailing us out again tonight. Rob will be Rob. We need others to step up their game to win against a good defensive road opponent wanting nothing more than to get their first win against us. My thoughts turn to Collin and DG. These 2 need to have good games, hit a few, and play smart. We know what we can count on with Rob, Zach, and Juwan. Others need to make a statement and I am counting on big games from CH and DG.

  • Bankshot

    My man Sarge
    They would be begging for jail if it was my baby!

  • vicbert caladipo

    I’ve been saying it for weeks….add FT shooting. I think this game comes down to FTs

  • I was going to say the same: seems like the refs favor every B1G team at home except for IU. And I don’t think I’m just being biased in saying that — I’d love to be able to say the calls are fair.

  • SCHoosier

    Can’t see a better way to get a players union in the B-10 than the crazy schedules the guys have to play this year. Screw Madison Sq Garden. The quick turnarounds are bad business for the schools, the health and academic requirements of the players.and fans who might not be able to attend to such closely scheduled game clusters. The ADs need to stand up and be counted on this quick game turnaround issue.

  • IdahoHoosier

    There is evidence to prove that as a whole, the B1G is down, such as the lack of quality wins outside of the B1G conference. Other than a few marquee wins from MSU and PU, not much noise has been made by B1G schools. The ACC/B1G challenge was a total beat down. The cream rose to the top pretty fast in the conference season and it appears they will stay there. What makes you say the B1G isn’t weak?

  • iubase

    i hope yo9ur right. I think it will be a nail bitter. D will carry us to a win.. .Underwood will have his troops fired up. Of the 3 new BIG coaches he was the one thought to be the best hire pre season. He will try and do his best against Archie. yes and Archie will show who is best/

  • IdahoHoosier

    It is absolutely because your biased, haha. I’m joking with you, but seriously we know every fan feels the exact same way that somehow the refs call it unfairly toward someone else.

  • Ivan Renko

    according to BPI (yes, i know most people don’t like the BPI that much, but anyway…) B1G is behind Big12, ACC, and Big East in terms of overall strength. That puts B1G ahead of the SEC and PAC12. I think that’s very reasonable given the teams we’ve seen in those 3 conferences ahead of the B1G

    But, also makes me scratch my head when bracketologists have 8 or 9 SEC teams in the dance but only 3 or 4 B1G teams. I think the two will come closer together with 6 each, but that’s not up to me obviously.

  • HoosierKid

    FTA/FTM disparity could be big

  • JethroTroll

    I hope I’m wrong, but i feel like Illinois is due for their first B1G win, and IU may just be that victim. I fully expect this game to be a nail biter down the stretch with both teams granted the opportunity to win it. After the swings back and forth for 36 minutes, it’ll most likely come down to who executes best in the last 4 minutes.

  • Arch Puddington

    In-group bias is a fundamental aspect of human psychology. We are essentially programmed to judge the same behavior or phenomenon differently when “we” do it as when “they” do it. It’s true of politics, religion, and every other human endeavor, but nowhere more so than sports. Among the things that have been spouted repeatedly here on ITH:

    1. The media is biased against us.
    2. The B1G is against us.
    3. The refs are against us.

    To challenge the first of those allegations, I actually went back and looked at several years of pre-season predictions. Not only was there no bias against us — i.e., no pattern of predictions that had us finishing lower than our actual finish — the media have been, if anything, too generous towards IU in recent years. Mostly they had us pegged within a spot or two, with the one exception being last year, when we finished well below the consensus predictions. But as with all confirmation bias, that data was largely ignored by those who are convinced. Rest assured that next year, as with every year, there will be outrage when the pre-season predictions come out.

    So are you biased when you say that the refs favor every home team except IU? It’s a question that answers itself. To believe that would be to believe that refs, B1G officials, and others are all in on a conspiracy to harm to the marquee franchise in the conference. You’d have to believe that there is such a bias against the Hoosiers that people with real material interests in the success of B1G basketball would rather see the Hoosiers lose than to have their own brand enhanced. We have the biggest, most passionate fan base in the conference. We are a blue-blood that still moves the needle for TV ratings and attendance. Everyone, including the other schools in the conference, would benefit if we returned to prominence. (Indeed, I am certain that fans of all the other schools think the refs favor US for that reason alone). The idea that every other team gets a break that we don’t is a classic bit of in-group/out-group bias, and ignores the reality that if anything, the powers that be have reason to give US the breaks.

  • Normally, I appreciate your long and thoughtful reponses. This time, you spent a little more time than you needed to spend. It simply seems to me that we have more than our fair share of games where the calls go against us at home, but I’m not married to the idea. And I’m not saying it’s some vast anti-IU conspiracy.

  • Arch Puddington

    We are all hysterics when it comes to our teams, and all prone to bad thinking. I am less prone to the “they are out to get us” hysteria than most (see above), but much more prone to assuming that every bad stretch of play will last for the rest of the game and giving up on the game. For whatever reason I am more pained by the bad things we do than I am thrilled by the good things. Or maybe I’ve just gotten so used to the Hoosiers being bad that I’ve used up my tolerance for watching (apparently) bad basketball. Either way, that is my bit of fan wackiness.

  • Arch Puddington

    I spent just the right amount of time for what I wanted to say! It’s a complex topic and goes well beyond bad calls. Whether it suits your taste is of course up to you.

    Whatever you believe, it would not be possible for every team to get breaks we do not without an organized campaign of some sort. My own belief is that incompetence explains most things far better than conspiracies, and officiating is no exception.

  • I was actually going to say that if anything, it’s the refs sucking that accounts for how things seem to be. Like I said, I wasn’t trying to say there’s some anti-IU conspiracy. Your response was probably apt, then, just not in response to what I was saying.

  • Arch Puddington

    But your own numbers here kind of make the point. As things stand there are at most 5 B1G teams in the tourney. Maryland at #41 — and struggling — is on the bubble according to both Kenpom and the “bracketologists”, so PU, MSU, UM, and OSU are the only locks.Neither Penn State at 64 nor any of the other teams behind them have any more than a fluke shot at making it in. Last year’s darlings, Minnesota and Northwestern, have collapsed, as has Iowa, another pre-season darling. Wisconsin, the B1G’s best team over the last few year, is down, as is IU, the historical marquee program. I mean, we’ve looked better of late, but the losses to ISU and Fort Wayne are still on our resume.

    Maybe the top of the conference is healthy, but the dept just isn’t there. Too few top recruits, too few future NBA players, too many top programs either down or in transition.

  • Arch Puddington

    Fair enough. And to be clear, I wasn’t only, or even primarily, responding to you. It has been a frequent topic of conversation around here, and I guess I have built up a lot of thought about it. You always make thoughtful and constructive posts, even if we disagree from time to time.

    Onward and upward.

  • TomEke

    I see your point, but I will say that I don’t consider it a bail out when your star player makes plays to win a game. I would consider a bail out to be along the lines of Lenzelle Smith Jr., who averaged 6.8 points per game on the year, scoring 30+ points for Ohio State against IU. To that point, RoJo and JMo have multiple games above 20 points, otherwise, I think IU got one game from JN and one game from JSmith where they scored 20 points and maybe one game of 18 points from CH, but I’m not sure I considered those performances to be bail outs on the level of Matt Roth, who averaged 6.7 points per game on the year, going for 29 against Ohio State almost a decade ago.

  • Here’s to some hard-nosed defense and scrappy play tonight. We bring that, I think we win.

  • vicbert caladipo

    YOOOOOOOOOOO Bankshot ….pass it here!!

  • Piker

    I have a good feeling Juan and Rob are going to start showing up every game. Zach we need on the floor for the hustle. We need one of these 4 to score and and not make silly mistakes and play D. CH, JN, JS, DG. I’m feeling JS and DG early middle of game and seniors late mostly with lead.

  • timamac

    Yes, and with teams like IU having 4 and Purdon’t having only 1 is b.s.

  • MrNobody

    Do you think the committee will give some grace for us having new coach for those losses early? The seem to credit teams who finish strong which it appears we could???

  • KingofKentucky

    I want this game bad. As others have said this will be no walk in the park. Also, Illinois has lost six straight and probably views Indiana as great opportunity for a win.

  • Arch Puddington

    As a total non-expert, I won’t claim to know enough to say with certainty. But I will say this: I used to think that the beginning of the season mattered much less than the end, but I have been persuaded that the early stuff matters almost as much as the end. Couldn’t quote it here, but I have read and heard members of the selection committee say as much. So short of a truly epic run to end this season — as in multiple victories over PU, MSU, and OSU, including on the road — I strongly doubt there is anything we can realistically hope for that would overcome the disastrous losses early on. I think that even if Maryland falls off and we go on a nice run to finish fifth in the conference, we probably still need to win the conference tourney to get in. I could be wrong all around, but that is what I think.

  • bfdm

    Nebraska is fun to watch this year.

  • MrNobody

    Valid points n good opinion as usual Arch

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Free throws are 3 of 8 for IU. AWFUL!!! AWfful!!!

  • sarge

    Illinois must be a bank with all of these bailouts

  • Bankshot

    You wouldn’t say that to my face little boy! You’d be crying not lol.
    My baby wouldn’t take a second look at s loser like you! You know it’s a fact milly!

  • Bankshot

    Silly boy! Keyboard coward and you know it.