This should be a fairly even matchup at home.
Nebraska has a better overall record with 13 wins, but its record in the Big Ten is similar to the Illini, and Illinois plays better at home.
However, given Illinois' propensity for playing porous defense, this will not be easy, especially with the scoring threats the Cornhuskers have at their disposal.
Nebraska has four players averaging double digits in scoring, led by guard James Palmer, Jr., who is averaging 19 points per game.
Illinois has the guard defenders to slow Palmer, but the real threats for Nebraska might just be Glynn Watson and Isaiah Roby, who both bring athleticism and scoring ability to the guard and forward spots. (Unfortunately, Nebraska is without arguably their biggest threat for the Illini in forward Isaac Copeland, who is out for the season.)
As Minnesota’s Jordan Murphy proved on Wednesday evening, Illinois still struggles to defend that kind of player.
Don't misconstrue my next thought, because Aaron Jordan and ADLR have provided a lot of grit and determination that had been lacking previously. That being said, if you really want to defend length inside, I think it's time we see more of Alan Griffin and Samba Kane in the front court for the Illini.
Obviously, rotating Jordan and De La Rosa would be wise, but they still have all kinds of problems defending athletes in the post. Giorgi does as well.
The difference is that Giorgi runs the offense much smoother, and provides a weapon at that end that Jordan/ADLR just cannot match.
Besides, what exactly are we playing for to give so much time to two seniors who aren't contributing much. It's past time we got a good look at what we have for the future. You've already #FreedTev, now it's time for #SetLooseSamba.
Offensively, the first half of Minnesota is exactly what you want. That was one of the more impressive offensive performances the Illini have had all year. Too bad it only lasted one half.
Frazier looks to have his confidence back. Giorgi needs to continue fighting for rebounds and getting better around the rim. Feliz, do your thing. It's wild and out of sorts at times, but it can be effective when he slashes to the basket and finishes. Hitting a three every now and then would open things up even more.
Tevian needs to be a starter as well. He's shown the last couple of games that his athleticism and shot-making ability are sorely needed. His effort has been phenomenal as well. He might give up a bit on defense, but if he limits his fouls and stays on the court, he's one of the four or five best players on the court for Illinois.
Mix in a bit of Kipper and Da’Monte, but until they regain any semblance of their respective offensive games, they need to be deep on the bench.
The future should be now. This is a winnable game. Everyone should be able to contribute something in their own way. Slowing Nebraska defensively will, of course, be the key.
Can the Illini do it? I think so, but Underwood needs to loosen the leash a bit and play the players who will lead us going forward.
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