It's funny how knowing that you're going to be in the tournament can affect the way you feel about a game. The Illini may have just finished playing their worst game of the season -- not that this was the worst loss, just that it was our worst performance -- and to be completely honest with you, I'm not even that upset.
The fact is that the Illini shouldn't even have been in this game considering they went over 11 minutes in the first half without a field goal and shot 28.6% from the floor on the night. But they were able to hang around thanks to Iowa not being all that great either.
Now, just because I'm not upset doesn't mean the loss isn't cause for concern.
The fact is that unless we knock off Ohio State in Columbus and win a game or two in the Big Ten Tournament, we can be relatively confident that we're going to end up as an eight or nine seed in the tournament. Which means we're going to have a tough first round matchup and an even tougher second round matchup.
Tonight's loss means a potential Sweet Sixteen run is pretty much dead on arrival.
Then when you combine this loss with how poorly we looked against Nebraska and it seems that the Illini have picked a very bad time to go into a rut. The fear now is that this team peaked during the win streak and if that's the case, our ceiling is a lot lower come the postseason.
Of course, none of this is set in stone. This is still the Big Ten and as we've seen all season long, just about anything is possible in this conference. That being said, even if we lose against the Buckeyes on Sunday, I hope we play a lot better than we did tonight.
Just for the hope that we might do something in the postseason.
-- Something is obviously wrong with Joseph Bertrand. I mentioned in the preview that the Illini needed him to step up after recent struggles, but tonight Joe only seemed to regress further. I can't help but wonder if he's still bothered by his hip after he crashed to the court in the Michigan loss. Since that game Joe has made only two of his seven shots to go along with 5 points. Which is one less point than the amount of turnovers he's had.
-- If there's one positive to take out of this game it's that the Illini rebounded well against a good rebounding team. We had 14 offensive rebounds on the night with Nnanna Egwu and Sam McLaurin combining for nine of them. Though I'm sure a lot of those offensive rebounds are thanks to the fact the Illini missed 45 shots tonight, not including free throws.
-- Speaking of free throws, how things may have been different if we made them tonight. The Illini were able to get to the line enough, it's just that they made only ten of their 17 attempts. Why that's seven points in an eight-point game!
-- Tracy Abrams last four games: 10-of-35 overall, 2-of-15 from three.
-- At least Brandon Paul seemed better tonight. He was only 6-for-15 but did finish with 18 points and didn't go flying into the lane out of control like he has been. That's an encouraging sign. Hopefully seeing the Buckeyes this weekend will rekindle the shot.
-- With every game I become a little more excited about the future of Nnanna Egwu.
eFG%: 35.7% (WOOF)
Points per possession: 0.81 (WOOOF)
Turnover rate: 16.2%
Free throw rate: 27.0%
Points per possession: 0.91
Turnover rate: 17.3%
Free throw rate: 37.0%