School: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Location: Urbana and Champaign, IL
Student Population: 40,616 total, 31,932 undergrad
School Type: Public – Land Grant
Stadium: Assembly Hall
Head Coach: John Groce
Experience: 1st year at UI @ U-C
Before we get started, I want to say this is a very sentimental preview for me. I believe the preview of the Ohio State – Illinois game in early January was my first “real” contribution to this site. Despite the Buckeyes getting trimmed by nearly 20 points in that game, The Editors allow me to continue to do these previews. They either believe in rehabilitation or have a very clear understanding correlation and causation.
The Big Ten race has turned into a, well.., race. Things sort out Sunday afternoon, beginning with Wisconsin at Penn State at 12 noon (EST), followed by Illinois at Ohio State at 12:30, Indiana at Michigan at 4:00 and concluded with Michigan State at Northwestern at 6:00.
To be honest, I don’t know what to expect from this Illinois team. They’ve been all over the board the past two months with exceptional win (Indiana), bad loss (Northwestern) along with expected wins (Northwestern, PSU) and expected losses (Michigan, Michigan State). I would expect this game to be an Expected Loss for Illinois, but considering the thrashing Illinois gave OSU in January, maybe not as Expected.
Information will be pulled from the excellent site at Statsheet .
The Illini (21-10, 8-9) have gone 7-8 since beating Ohio State two months ago. Illinois will start Tracy Abrams (G, 6’1”) , DJ Richardson (G, 6’3”), Brandon Paul(G, 6’4”), Tyler Griffey (F/C, 6’9”) and Nnanna Egwu (F/C, 6’11”). Starter stats, below.
The 14th ranked Buckeyes are coming off an encouraging four game winning streak that included a home win against #4 Michigan State and an away win against #2 Indiana. Let’s extend the streak to five wins.
For your reviewing pleasure, your OSU starters; Aaron Craft (G, 6’2”), Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (G, 6’4”), DeShaun Thomas (F, 6’7”), Sam Thompson (F,6’7”) and Amir Williams (C, 6’11”). Seeing significant playing time will be Shannon Scott (G, 6’1”), Evan Ravenal (C/F, 6’8”) and LaQuinton Ross (F, 6’8”). Key stats for starters:
|#32||L. Smith Jr.||29||27.8||10.1||44.8||68.3||39.8||4.9||1.6||1.3|
The below table has the comparative Four Factors as well as possessions per game (PPP), points per possession – offense (PPP-O) and points allowed per possession (PPP-D).
|eFG%||TO%||Off Reb||FT Rate||PPG||PPP (O)||PPP (D)|
I think OSU can rotate Ravenal/Williams/Ross/McDonald onto the floor to counter the Illinois front line. Frankly, Williams has been disappointingly ineffective with output of rebounds/fouls being roughly the same. If Evan can put together a game on Sunday like he did against Indiana, that would go a long way to secure a win. In fact, if Thad can get the team to play like they did on Tuesday, the Buckeyes will be in good shape; a Total Team Effort.
As I mentioned earlier in the article, this may not be an easy game for Ohio State. Despite Illinois’ streaky play, they do have some talent (Paul, Richardson) and would relish an opportunity to be conference spoiler on Sunday. However, over the last two weeks, I think we’ve seen the pieces of Thad Matta’s Puzzle begin to align. The role players (anyone not named DeShaun Thomas) have begun to develop other capabilities. Yes, Aaron Craft is still an on-ball terror, but now he is a scoring threat. Shannon Scott, although still cringe-worthy shooting free throws, is morphing into an on-court force by creating turnovers and dishing assists. Sam Thompson is beginning to round out his game to get the Buckeyes a point here, a block there, and a rebound down the line. You get the idea..
Tip-off is Sunday, March 10th at 12:30PM at Value City Arena; please join us for Live Chat 15 minutes prior to tip–off. The game will be aired on ESPN. Since this is first game of the afternoon, we won’t have to sit through last few minutes of another game.