Illinois and Minnesota meet up on Saturday in a matchup between two teams that reside at the bottom of the Big Ten conference. Both the Fighting Illini and the Gophers have struggled in conference play with a combined record of 1-12. One of these teams will try to change that trend when they meet in the Barn on Saturday night.
Illinois is coming off a recent pounding from Indiana in Bloomington where it got taken down 103-69. It was the worst loss in the John Groce era and also the worst defensive performance of the season for Illinois. The Fighting Illini recently returned Mike Thorne Jr. from injury, but they're going to need more help than that if they want to find any sort of success moving forward. Tuesday's matchup against the Hoosiers was frightening, and Illinois will need to sharpen up to ensure something like that doesn't happen again.
Luckily for the Illini, Minnesota isn't quite the offensive juggernaut that Indiana is. The Gophers are led by Nate Mason and Joey King with 12.9 and 12.4 points per game on the season respectively. Outside of that, they struggle to get much from the rest of their team. Minnesota is averaging just 70 points per game on the season and has been struggling immensely on the offensive end during conference play. The Gophers have lost 7 straight and 11 of their last 12. Needless to say, Illinois may have found themselves a beatable opponent.
Illinois has not won a road game this season but will look to change that on Saturday night in Minneapolis. Defense will be a major key. The Fighting Illini were not able to stop the Hoosiers in any way whatsoever on Tuesday night, especially from behind the three point line. Illinois allowed Indiana to hit a whopping 19 three pointers on the night. That can't happen on a consistent basis. If the Illini aren't closing out on perimeter shooters, it could be a long day. Joey King and Nate Mason know how to light it up from downtown given the opportunity, so don't sleep on the Gophers. All in all, Illinois is in dire need of a win to start getting back on track. Things have been looking down for Illinois lately, so a road win would be very helpful to the deflated Illini.