I've said all season that I didn't think this Illinois team was as good as its record or its ranking. However, I did not think things were nearly as bad as they've appeared to be in the last two games. First a 17-point loss to Minnesota at home and then this 23-point drubbing in Madison from Wisconsin.
Is it time to panic?
It certainly seems like it's time to panic, and it's not hard to imagine why fans would be. After today's loss the Illini are now 3-15 in their last 18 games against Big Ten opponents. That scans an entire calendar year. They've also lost 9 straight Big Ten road games, with the last road victory coming against Northwestern on January 4th.
We're 2-17 in our last 19 Big Ten road games.
So, is it time to panic?
I guess it depends on how you want to look at it. Yes, it's alarming that we got our ass kicked for the second straight game, and it's alarming that a Wisconsin team that really doesn't have a lot more talent than we do could make us look so bad. You can write it off by saying that the Badgers shot 49% from the floor and 40% from three while we shot 35% and 13% ourselves, but that's been the case in a lot of games lately.
At some point it stops being an excuse and becomes your reality.
Still, we can hold off on the full panic mode for now. The fact is our next two games are against Northwestern and Nebraska, and if we win those games like we should we're heading into final week of the month at 3-3 in the Big Ten. However, if we lose one or both of those games, then yes, panic.
Take to the streets in your underwear screaming, because it's a nice diet of Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Indiana and Minnesota after that.
-- What came first: the chicken or the egg? I mean, did we finish this game with only 2 assists -- TWO!!! -- because we couldn't hit a shot or could we not hit shots because there weren't enough assists?
-- Having guards who can rebound is a plus. Having your best rebounders be guards is a problem. Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson, Tracy Abrams and Joseph Bertrand combined for 16 of our 23 rebounds in the game. Nnanna Egwu, Sam McLaurin and Tyler Griffey combined for 3. Wisconsin's Jared Berggren had 12 by himself, 7 of which were offensive.
-- Having guards who can shoot is even better. Brandon Paul was 1-for-11 on the day, and his struggles weren't just from the floor. Yeah, he got to the free throw line 10 times, which was nice, but what wasn't nice was that he missed just as many as he shot: 5. It was far and away Brandon's worst game of the year.
-- There was one silver lining. D.J. Richardson finally did what we've been asking him to do for a while now. I don't even care that most of it happened while we were down 20 points or more. The fact is that only 3 of D.J.'s 11 shots were threes this afternoon, and the rest came from in the paint or just outside of it. Which is why it's not a coincidence he shot 64% from the floor and led the team with 16 points.
-- I find it funny that the Illini have now lost two games in a row by a combined 40 points yet there were more Illini fans on Twitter this afternoon mad about Steve Stricker -- who was born in Wisconsin and grew up as a Wisconsin fan before attending Illinois -- wearing a Wisconsin hat than they were the team's performance. Stop making yourselves look so childish, Illini fans.