KYE: Illinois

As David Jones wrote yesterday, how PSU has to finish to get in the dance is becoming more clearer.  Basically, they have to win 4 of their last 5 to be in the discussion.  So while technically tonight isn’t a must-win, it’s pretty close.  PSU needs to take one of their next 2 games (@ Illinois, @ OSU).  I believe we have a much better shot against OSU, but we’ve won in our last two trips to Assembly Hall.

However, I’m sure Frazier, Meacham, and Brock haven’t forgotten PSU’s success in Champagne. And I’m sure Bruce Weber’s staff have seen the Purdue/Wisconsin game tapes.  This PSU team is handcuffed if locked into a halfcourt affair.  I expect Frazier to be in Battle’s grill as soon as he crosses halfcourt.  I also expect Tisdale or Davis ready to give help when Battle tries to drive.  They’ll be ready to suffocate him as soon as he enters the lane. PSU needs to switch it up or make some ridiculously tough shots if they’re going to get their offense going. I’m wishing we try to run some sets to get Jones and Cornley the ball on the low block. Attack inside, try to draw some fouls, take some pressure off our worn out guards.  I’ll be disappointed if this is another replay of the PU/UW games.

This is the first time we’ve played Illinois this season so I haven’t been able to touch on their great turnaround this season. Last year, led by underachieving seniors Brian Randle and Shaun Pruitt, the Illini stumbled to a 16-19 record. PSU swept them in both their regular season matches, but the Illini finally got hot in March and beat us in the BTT.  Randle and Pruitt leaving apparently has done wonders for the whole program.  Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale have improved so much this year, along with Frazier at the point. Frazier’s never been much of a force on offense, but his defense is top notch and he’s done a phenomenal job distributing the ball.  McCamey is still a stud and UK transfer Alex Legion has entered the equation for the Illini.  They’re very balanced, have solid depth, and arguably play the best defense in the conference.

Both teams have a similar offensive efficiency rating, but Illinois’ defensive efficiency is 2nd best in the conference, and 5th best in the country. Their opponents’ eFG% is 19th best in the country.  Points are going to be hard-earned tonight for PSU. Hopefully PSU can D it up inside and make it tough for Illinois to score, as well. They aren’t a great shooting team, but if they get going from the perimeter, PSU is going to have problems.  Illinois isn’t a particularly strong rebounding team (49% Reb Pct), nor do they take care of the ball as well as PSU (19% TO Pct).  They actually foul shots well this year though, shooting at a 71.4% clip.

Illinois’ is a 9.5 point favorite, which sounds about right.  Unfortunately, I’m going to take Illinois. I don’t see PSU scoring.  Another ugly 40-50 point outing. However, PSU could find some offense by creating some turnovers and getting out in transition, of if we could get Cornley and Jones to get some garbage points on some offensive rebounds.  It’s going to take a total team effort tonight for PSU. Possible, but I just don’t see it.

Pregame Reading…

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