It is a dark time in the land of Illinois Basketball.
Opening conference play at 0-7 for the first time since the 1998-99 season, the Illini find themselves in uncharted territory. A once basketball powerhouse is being wiped off the court by teams with a fraction of the history and accolades.
Now, Brad Underwood and staff will have to find a way to maximize the talent and potential of this squad while working on building for the future. As Tom Izzo and perennial Final Four-favorite Michigan State come to Champaign on Monday, what exactly do the Illini need to do in order to secure a win and one of the biggest upsets in recent memory?
Get To The Line
Illinois is averaging less than 14 free throws per game over their past five games. That is a stark difference from their season average. On the season, they have averaged 21 free throw attempts per game. Seven fewer free throw attempts may not seem like a big deal, but when you are playing in the Big Ten Conference, any chance you can get at easy points can not be missed.
When you are going up against a team like Michigan State, you need every opportunity to score that you can get.
A Mistake Free And Complete Game
This goes without saying and should come as no surprise. You want to beat one of the top teams in the country? Don’t play bad and don’t beat yourself.
You want to make a mark on the season and possibly turn this losing streak around? Don’t play bad and don’t beat yourself.
You want to reestablish the State Farm Center as a tough place to play and have one of the loudest, most frenzied fan bases rejuvenated? Don’t play bad and don’t beat yourself.
I so badly want to keep being a homer. Had Illinois beaten Wisconsin I would be more apt to pick the upset here.
However, after watching the performance at Madison, it is hard for me to pick this upset. Sparty wins and trounces the Illini, 81-60