The first matchup broke Indiana
Looking at the Illinois/Indiana game back in early January, it was par for the course of this Fighting Illini team. Good to great first-half performances by Brad Underwood’s squad, only to be beaten down in the second half. Illinois led for most of the first half, the game was tied at halftime and then the Illini never held a lead in the second half.
Second-half woes: Is it a tactical, x’s and o’s breakdown levied by coaching adjustments or non-adjustments? Is it a lack of depth on the Illinois roster compared to other Big Ten teams? Is it simply shots not falling? The answer is all of the above, and that trend hasn’t stopped since early January — you just have to look at Illinois’ most recent game, a game they won at home vs. Northwestern.
Indiana would lose its next seven games after beating Illinois by eight points. With a lone, shocking win in primetime at Michigan State, the Hoosiers would go on to lose 12 of their next 13 games post-Illinois.
Romeo Langford is at his best driving to the basket
I was an English major at Illinois so here it goes...: “Romeo, Romeo. Where art thou, Romeo? Art thee standing at the perimeter, waiting to shoot a three? Or art thou following the orders of Coach Archie, taking thee ball into Illinois defence’s teeth?”
Translation: Romeo Langford loves to shoot threes (he averages about four of them a game), but he’s not particularly great at doing so. He shoots just 26 percent from the three-point line. He was 0-for-4 last Saturday in IU’s one-point win over Michigan State. He was 1-for-3 in IU’s close win vs Wisconsin. He was 2-for-6 against at Iowa. There’s a pattern.
The Indiana offense is more dangerous when Romeo Langford is driving to the lane and either looking to score, or looking to set up his open teammates. FWIW, Indiana is the worst three-point shooting team in the Big Ten.
Indiana is back on the bubble — a loss to Illinois kills their NCAA Tournament hopes
There are now 13 teams with at least 6 Quadrant 1 wins and no Quadrant 3 or Quadrant 4 losses:— Kerry Miller (@kerrancejames) February 27, 2019
12 of them (UVA, Duke, UK, KU, MSU, UNC, Michigan, Wisconsin, Marquette, MD, Miss St. and Kansas St.) are VERY comfortably in the field.
And then there's Indiana....
The above tweet was written before Indiana beat Michigan State at home on Saturday. Indiana’s 15-14 record is not great, but they have some really, really good wins: Michigan State (twice), Marquette, Louisville and home over Wisconsin. According to KenPom rankings, the Hoosiers have played the third-toughest schedule in the country. The selection committee cares about that. The only teams that have played a tougher schedule than Indiana?: Penn State Nittany Lions and Kansas Jayhawks.
The Hoosiers enter their last two games (at Illinois, vs. Rutgers) squarely on the bubble. Indiana will have a tough time getting into the NCAA Tournament with a loss to Illinois on Thursday or Rutgers on Sunday.* This is do or die time for Archie Miller. Speaking of...
*Of course, Indiana can win the Big Ten Tournament too and make it.
The heat is on Archie Miller
Certainly second-year coaches get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to record, and this is not to say Archie Miller might be fired — he won’t be. Coming in to this season, Indiana was expected to at least compete for the Big Ten title. Juwan Morgan as a key returnee as well as Justin Smith, Aljahmi Durham, Devonte Green and De’Ron Davis to compliment big-get recruits in Langford and Rob Phinisee. This was a complete team with a nice mix of established players and star-studded freshmen.
The nose-dive in January and February to the tune of a 3-13 record was unexpected and aggravating for Hoosiers fans, capitulating with each loss.
Indiana fans do not consider Illinois as big of a rival as they do with Purdue, but make no mistake, these two teams are rivals. There is some deep rooted hate. It’s one thing to lose to Wisconsin or Michigan or Minnesota — it’s an embarrassing, lowest of lows feeling to lose to the Fighting Illini if you’re a diehard Hoosiers fan.
Prediction: Indiana 69, Illinois 64