What to Expect: Indiana at Illinois

  • 01/26/2024 8:19 am in

Indiana returns to action Saturday afternoon at the State Farm Center against Illinois. The Fighting Illini are 14-5 overall and 5-3 in Big Ten play.

The game will tip at 3 p.m. ET on FOX:

Indiana’s week-long break ends tomorrow when it takes on Illinois in Champaign. The Hoosiers swept the Illini last season, but the two programs face off once this season.

The Hoosiers are looking for positive momentum after a 21-point beatdown against Purdue and a 12-point loss against Wisconsin at the Kohl Center that didn’t seem that close.


Brad Underwood is in his seventh season at Illinois but has yet to take the Illini past the round of the 32 in the NCAA tournament. There’s promise this season could be different as Underwood’s team currently sits at No. 10 in KenPom and No. 13 in the NCAA’s NET rankings.

Rather than running it back with Dain Dainja starting at the five, Underwood has pivoted to a smaller lineup with players who can switch at every position.

The headliner is 6-foot-6 wing Terrence Shannon Jr., who was charged with rape in Kansas in December and suspended. A judge recently ruled that his suspension had violated his civil rights and that he hadn’t been afforded due process and reinstated him.

Shannon Jr. is in the midst of an All-American caliber season, averaging 20.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in 33.2 minutes per game. He’s shooting 50 percent from the field, 37 percent from 3 and 77.8 percent from the free throw line.

Illinois doesn’t have a traditional point guard, as 6-foot-6 Ty Rodgers and 6-foot-6 Marcus Domask also start in the backcourt. Domask, a Southern Illinois transfer, is second in scoring at 15.1 points per game. He’s an excellent free throw shooter (87 percent) and is 14th in the Big Ten in assist rate. While he hasn’t shot it well from the perimeter, he’s been great in the midrange, where he can use his size to shoot over smaller defenders.

Rodgers, a sophomore, isn’t a perimeter threat or much of a scoring threat, either. He’s averaging just 6.5 points, hasn’t attempted a 3-pointer all season and primarily scores at the rim. He’s a strong rebounder – 5.1 per game – and averages 2.4 assists per game.

Quincy Guerrier, who played two seasons at Syracuse and two at Oregon, starts at the four. Guerrier doesn’t operate in the midrange, opting for 3s or looks at the rim. He’s shooting 32.8 percent on 3s and 55.3 percent on 2s. He’s the best rebounder on the roster with 8.1 per game and a team-high 40 offensive boards.

Coleman Hawkins, a 6-foot-10 forward, starts at the five and can guard multiple positions. The fourth-year big is third on the team in scoring at 12 points per game and second in rebounding at 6.6 per game. Hawkins is an excellent floor spacer – 36.4 percent on 3s – and has length that is disruptive defensively.

The Illini play a short bench with only two reserves, forward Luke Goode and guard Justin Harmon, logging double-figure minutes.

Goode, a 6-foot-7 native of Fort Wayne, is a 3-point specialist. He’s made a team-high 37 3s and is shooting 40.7 percent from deep. Harmon is a native of Chicago who transferred from Utah Valley after two seasons. The 6-foot-4 guard is shooting 41.3 percent on 3s, 84 percent from the line and has been terrific as a backup all season.

Illinois also has Dainja, who plays just 9.7 minutes per game, on the bench as a post option against teams with size. Dainja is an effective scorer when he plays. He’s shooting 67 percent from the field and averages 5.8 points.


All stats are via KenPom.com and are updated through Thursday’s games.

It’s been fascinating to watch the evolution of Underwood as a coach since his arrival in Champaign. His early Illinois teams emphasized ball pressure and turnovers, but two unsuccessful seasons with that approach forced him to alter his approach.

Illinois is surrendering an opponent free throw rate of just 22.5 percent, the ninth-best mark in the country. With versatile defenders at each position that can typically handle their one-on-one matchups, Illinois opts to play straight up and tries to force its opponents into difficult, contested 2-point attempts. And it’s working. The Illini are 14th nationally in 2-point field goal percentage defense (43.5 percent).

Offensively, the Illini are relentless on the glass with the 16th-best offensive rebounding percentage in the country. Despite having a size advantage against most opponents, Indiana has struggled all season on the defensive glass. If the Hoosiers don’t shore up the problem against the Illini, second-chance opportunities will be plentiful.

Illinois also does an excellent job of taking care of the ball (16.1 TO%), makes 3s at a respectable percentage (34.3) and is very efficient on 2s (54.4 percent).


KenPom has the Hoosiers as a 15-point underdog, giving Illinois a 90 percent chance of securing the home victory.

After winning its first Big Ten road game at Michigan, the Hoosiers have dropped three straight away from Assembly Hall by an average margin of 12.3 points.

Illinois is also coming off of a tough overtime loss at Northwestern and has to win its home games to remain in the Big Ten title race.

If the Hoosiers can’t shore things up defensively, get better play from Xavier Johnson and make a stand on the defensive glass, it will be a long afternoon in Champaign.

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