Well, the Illini are playing on Wednesday.
I think as a fanbase, the Illini faithful were hoping for a better outcome than a 1-5 finish against the bottom of the Big Ten.
Unfortunately, the wheels fell off, and now Illinois is faced with the daunting task of pulling itself up and end the season on a respectable note.
That starts with the Northwestern Wildcats. The worst team in the Big Ten has struggled to gain any consistency this season, primarily due to its atrocious offense.
To make matters worse, star forward Vic Law appeared to have injured his shin pretty badly in their loss to Purdue on Saturday. There is no update on whether he will play against Illinois or not, but he's the critical piece to the Wildcats’ success. Needless to say, without him, they would be severely short-handed.
The offense typically funnels through Law and 6-foot-8 senior center Dererk Pardon.
Without one of them, this offense gets even more anemic. They're currently averaging 65 points per game, and their offensive efficiency rating ranks them at 293rd in the country. Take away Vic Law, who is averaging over 15 points per game, and their offense could be even worse.
Pardon is the real threat here, however. That kind of size in the post has been anathema to Illinois. The Illini just have no answer whatsoever for long, tall, rebounding scorers. He has been a thorn for the Illini in two games this season, especially in the last matchup at State Farm, where he scored 16 points and corralled nine rebounds in a tough, gritty performance.
Illinois will have to rotate ADLR and Aaron Jordan on Pardon pretty liberally, as those two represent your best rebounding threats for the Illini.
However, if Law is cleared to play, Illinois' defense will also have to guard the perimeter. Since that has been such a huge problem lately for Illinois, let's just hope they hold him out.
Northwestern's one saving grace is its defense. Coming in as the 30th-ranked scoring defense in the country, the Wildcats will try to slow the pace of play, and grind the opposition. Whoever scores over 65 will win this game, that's almost guaranteed.
Needless to say, this game will be a matchup of two similar styles of play. However, if Illinois' can get out and run, shoot the ball well, and force Northwestern into turnovers by the bunches, there should be no reason they can't win.
It'll be a death by a thousand cuts game. Let's just hope the Illini have a sharper knife.
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