Coming in to this season, many fans, myself included, had high hopes for this Illini squad. While things have not been great all season long, this team has improved immensely from the outset of the season. Perhaps an easier schedule would have added wins for Illinois, sure, but the toughness of the non-conference slate, I believe, is what brought this team to where it is today.
We here at The Champaign Room often joke about Illinois being the ‘most dangerous 11-win team’ in the country, but the joke holds true. With the potential to finish in the top half of the Big Ten when the regular season is over, Illinois is not the same team that lost to FAU. Ask Michigan State. Ask Maryland. Ask Ohio State.
So exactly needs to happen Thursday night in Champaign for the Illini to emerge victorious?
Romeo, Romeo, Wherefore Art Thou Romeo?
Romeo Langford is an absolute beast for Indiana. He has the potential to be one of the best in the Big Ten yet has been mired in a bit of a slump lately. On Saturday against Michigan State, Langford went 4-for-14, including 0-for-4 from three, for nine points.
In his last five games, he has been below his season average in points per game all but once and below his season average for assists in every game. Illinois will need to exploit that slump, keep his shot at bay, and force Romeo into uncomfortable shots.
Keep The Tempo High
Indiana, in its last three games, has played a total of three overtime periods while playing four straight ranked opponents. That is grueling even for the best teams in the country. Indiana, no offense, is not one.
After going 2-2 over that four-game stretch, Indiana will likely fall in to a slump, exhausted from the past two weeks. Illinois and its suffocating defense can push Indiana to turnover prone basketball all game long if Underwood plays it smart. Full-court press for the majority of the game would be ideal considering the Hoosiers average 12.9 turnovers per game. I expect 18+ when all is said and done. Twenty turnovers would not surprise me.
Aaron Jordan and Adonis De La Rosa Need To Shine
It’s Senior Night. Jordan has given his all to this team. ADLR is new to Champaign, but over the past several games, his gritty play has helped the Illini, regardless of what his stat line is.
Underwood will likely give these two prime minutes as outgoing seniors. Given these minutes, they must perform. Let’s send these two (and Drew Cayce) out on a high note.
I can’t wait for the “Fire Archie Miller” crowd to get more ammunition. These Indiana fans are ridiculous. They have not been relevant since they forced Tom Crean out, the same Tom Crean who got them 27 wins the year before his firing.
Illinois wins 72-66.
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