Illinois heads to Indiana on Thursday night to resume Big Ten play after an overtime loss to FAU. Let’s learn more about that team in Bloomington.
Who Are They?
You know who they are. The Indiana Hoosiers are one of the most — if not, the most— heated rival(s) Illini basketball has in the Big Ten. This is a game Illinois fans always circle when the Big Ten schedule comes out. Whether the animosity is mutual is another story as the Hoosiers usually reserve their basketball animosity for Purdue or Michigan State.
Nonetheless, over the years, Illinois and Indiana have played some epic regular season games ,including Eric Gordon’s return to Champaign in 2008 and the Illini’s massive upset over No. 1 ranked Indiana in Champaign in 2013. Unfortunately for Illinois, the Hoosiers — albeit still a work in progress — seem to be light years ahead of the Illini. Indiana coach Archie Miller has done the best he can with what he inherited and appears to be an animal on the recruiting trail. The future is bright in Bloomington. The same cannot be said in Champaign.
So far this season?
The Hoosiers come into this one at 11-2 (2-0) with a neutral site win over Butler, home wins over Louisville, Northwestern, and Marquette as well as a road win at Penn State. Indiana’s first loss of the season was a 21-point drubbing at the hands of Duke at Cameron Indoor during the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Its second loss was a one-point thriller at Arkansas.
For Indiana fans, the Hoosiers have been somewhat maddening to watch. The offense is clunky and seems to play undisciplined basketball during big stretches of games. The problems on offense are multiplied by a lack of consistent outside shooting and an inability to consistently hit free throws. All these issues throw off the spacing Archie Miller wants on offense, which then leads to frustrating offensive stretches in games.
Watching the Hoosiers, you sense that the offensive flow is not where it needs to be. These issues seriously manifested themselves in a blowout loss at Duke and a close loss at Arkansas. Still, the Hoosiers are currently ranked 36th in KenPom’s Offensive Rankings. Despite its bad stretches, the offense still managed itself effectively in wins over Butler, Northwestern and Louisville, as well as the blowout win over Marquette.
The Hoosiers’ defense has been tenacious and should be credited for the mostly successful start to the season. This tenacity is largely derived from the depth of a roster full of tremendous on ball defenders and pesky guards that fight through screens. Miller has instilled a hard-nosed philosophy and the team has bought in. The Hoosiers’ defense is currently ranked 20th in KenPom.
Players To Watch
The Hoosiers are led by freshman phenom Romeo Langford — a 6-foot-6 guard who was the Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 2017-18. Langford has only been in Bloomington for a few months, but he has already established himself as the Hoosiers’ go-to player. He is one of the few Hoosiers who can create his own shot, so he is often looked at to break the Hoosiers out of offensive slumps.
Langford is complemented by the veteran leadership of senior Juwan Morgan, a 6-foot-7 forward who doubles as the Hoosiers’ team captain.
The Illini come into this one ranked 114 in KenPom while the Hoosiers rank 26th. To make matters worse, the Illini seem to be unraveling. When the aforesaid is coupled with the Hoosiers’ ability to defend and score — despite some offensive deficiencies — it’s hard to envision a scenario where the Illini can keep this one close on the road.
Indiana 79, Illinois 62
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