Nebraska Thoughts, Standings and Michigan Predictions

Nebraska Thoughts, Standings and Michigan Predictions

Blog PhotoIn the workplace, a meeting is a way to get paid for sitting and staring.  Maybe you get a free lunch too.  But in the game of basketball, apparently a meeting…a players-only meeting to be specific…has some tangible results.

In all seriousness though, I can’t emphasize enough how important a fast start is in the Big Ten this year, especially on the road.  And that’s exactly what the Illini did last night.  Really, they stretched that start into a solid first half and never looked back.  The stats don’t lie:  rebounds were 40-28 Illinois, while the Illini rebounded around half of their misses…the Huskers didn’t hit a field goal in the final 9 minutes of the first half…several Husker players in foul trouble with low scoring outputs…and, of course, most importantly, a career night from DJ Richardson…

This is exactly what DJ needed after some recent rumblings about his ability to contribute.  Let’s hope it carries over to the Blog Photonext one.  And overall, from watching the body language of the guys on TV and reading some reports from media members who were at the game, it seemed like the Illini players were really committed to giving a good effort…hustling for loose balls, cheering teammates even when they make a mistake, etc.  All good things to see.  The only question I have…and I think you can apply this to any team that goes through ups and downs…is why can’t that aura be there night in and night out?  Without being with the team every day to know what’s going on behind the scenes, none of us can really ever know.

Other observations from last night:

  • I’m a HUGE social media guy (follow DWS on Twitter and Facebook!), so I was grinning from ear to ear when I saw Tim Miles’ halftime tweet.  Apparently that’s a regular thing for him, and I think it’s great that he’s embraced the technology.
  • I’ve heard varying opinions on this, but after hearing former Illini Eddie Johnson on BTN commentary for the first time last night, I really enjoyed it.  He was very knowledgeable, was funny at the right times, had an appreciation of Big Ten basketball history, and wasn’t over the top.  What did you all think?
  • More postgame talk from Coach Groce about defense, defense, defense…

Blog PhotoLooking at the predictions for just this game, tmh2196 put up the best single game performance so far this year by only missing the Illini margin of victory by two points.  If he would have spotted Illinois three more points and the Huskers one more point, then we would have had our first perfect prediction of the year.  This comes one game after he put up the highest RSDT of the year.  Maybe it was the adrenaline rush?  Also have to give credit to UIBaton8, who predicted DJ’s big night.  Overall, we had 46 pickers this game (the most for any one game this year) and eight people picking for the first time (also the most for any one game this year).  Picks were slanted about 2-1 in Illinois’ favor, as 63% of you called an Illini victory, compared to 37% who favored the Huskers.

A bit of movement in the overall standings this time around, as illiniphil85 is now on top, with BleedOandB, walko, and penniless nipping at his/her heels.  We’re up to 70 total pickers (11 more til my goal!), and included among the guesses were some interesting quirks:

  • We had “IlliniGradMom” and “IlliniGradDad” make picks back to back, with mom picking the Illini and dad picking the Huskers.  Hope dad isn’t sleeping on the couch because of that.
  • Only one person, Illini-Phil, gave a Superbowl pick.  Unfortunately, it’ll be a losing one, as the Patriots didn’t make it.  I’m in the same boat, as I picked Atlanta to win it all.  Oh well…
  • Openmind is predicting a 19-14 record and a first round NIT loss.  We’ll keep tabs on that just for fun.
  • 74illini is looking at a 7-11 or 8-10 B1G record.  We’ll keep tabs on that one too.
  • Sunnyd503’s musical reference was good for a chuckle.
  • Speaking of chuckles, I liked everyone’s unique way to refer to the Huskers:  corndogs, red, cornjerkers, corney, cornshuckers, big red, cornlovers, the other guys, cornhuskers, and corn people.
  • Basketball junkie1123 called for Coach Groce to resign after the game.  No comment on that one.

Next up…the Goliath to our David…the Michigan Wolverines

What else can you really say about these guys except that they’re darn good?  If you exclude their loss to Ohio State, the team is averaging just shy of 84 points per game in Big Ten play…with an average margin of victory of just under 20 points.  And honestly, that Ohio State loss doesn’t lessen my opinion of this UM team one bit…simply due to the fact that homecourt advantage really is that big this year in the Big Ten.  Play that game on a neutral court, and Michigan wins.

The play of Trey Burke speaks for itself, but the team also goes 10 deep, getting contributions from all six of their freshmen.  Unless the Illini defense does a 180, I’m not sure how this UM offense can be stopped.  I would say that maybe a few calls in the Illini’s favor would help the cause, but Michigan barely fouls at all to begin with (11.6 per game before the Minnesota game, which led the nation)…not to mention the fact that the Illini’s free throw shooting has left a little to be desired (71% heading into the Nebraska game, which is not bad at all, but you have to make ‘em when they matter).

My confidence has risen a bit after last night, but UM is just too darn good for me to pick the home team.  Don’t take it personally guys.

MY PREDICTBlog PhotoION:  Michigan 75, Illinois 61

Interesting tidbit from the UM game notes…their team slogan this year is “We On” which stands for “When Everyone Operates N’Sync”  So you chose to reference a 90s boy band rather than just saying “in sync”?  Orange Krush…I hope you’re reading this.

So you what say you, Illini nation?  Leave your score prediction and analysis in a comment below or email me by 5 PM Sunday.  More importantly, make plans to head out to the Hall on Sunday if you can get your hands on a ticket.  After two hot crowds for OSU and Minnesota, things dropped off a bit for Northwestern.  And the good guys will need all the help they can get on Sunday.

Other off-topic nuggets…

  • ‘Member a couple blogs ago when I brought up the whole Steve Stricker in a Wisconsin hat?  One of Strick’s colleagues, Illini golf coach Mike Small, kinda sorta called him out on it on Monday’s edition of the News-Gazette Sports Page on WDWS.  You tell ‘em Small-y!

  • Speaking of DWS, you’ll want to put us on your radio dial favorites for the next few months if you’re a college basketball fan.  We have the perk of being able to carry games other than the Illini’s, and we’re taking full advantage of it this month with 20 bonus games.  In fact, there’s not a day in January where there’s not a sports game broadcast on the DWS schedule.  Give credit to fellow HQ blogger Brian Moline for setting up that schedule.  Also, if you ever wonder what games are on tap, head here.
  • Another blog flashback – to the one where I thought that the Matto Award might be retired.  A little detective work proved my hunch wrong.  Listen to this clip from the latest episode of the TNT documentary series revolving around this year’s team…

So the Matto Award lives, but it’s not being publicized.  I guess we can live with that.  Sure was fun, at least for me, to follow along week to week, though.

  • As far as commercials featuring Big Ten coaches go, this one is giving this one a run for its money for the top spot.  What are some of your favorite sports commercials?


COMING UP ON MONDAY:  Michigan Thoughts, Prediction Standings, & Michigan State Thoughts (including audio from Coach Groce and Coach Izzo)

[Do Not Disturb photo via, N’SYNC photo via, Matto audio via Illini Productions]


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Mike Goebel wrote on January 23, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Aside from the Nebraska win, the schedule has played out exactly opposite of the way I thought it would. Therefore, I pick Illinois to win 80-77.

I also have the 49ers winning by the same score.


stumblefoot wrote on January 24, 2013 at 10:01 am

Thanks for the laugh this morning with your Superbowl pick.  I had no idea coffee could sting so bad when going through one's nose.

Mike Goebel wrote on January 25, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Haha! Glad I could brighten your day!

krervin2 wrote on January 23, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Illinois 77

Michigan 70


I voted with hope last game. The same applies.

walker wrote on January 23, 2013 at 10:01 pm

I was out of town for several days and forgot to place my pics on the Nebraska game.

oh well.   I'm not sure I totally believe this one, but here goes:  ILL  68  MICH  63

sunnyd503 wrote on January 24, 2013 at 12:01 am

Well, I picked against us last time and we won. So, trying it again. 

scUM 67 Illini 65 (a throwback to the football shoot out a couple years back)

I think Michigan is a better matchup for us than some teams. If we can force them to be a perimeter team and rebound well, I think we have a chance. It just depends which Illini team shows up.

I thought EJ was much improved from a previous game. I didn't realize he towered that much over Groce. 

Really enjoy what you're doing here, Tim. Never had so much fun losing 5 times in a row. 

tonyjb37 wrote on January 24, 2013 at 12:01 am
Profile Picture

X-Men  84       Weber's Girls  64

Eric 22 wrote on January 24, 2013 at 6:01 am

This is not only a big game for this year but a giant game for recruiting with some big name visitors.  I believe Burke is the difference maker in this while he faciliates to Michigan's great shooters.

Ill-75 Mich-84

penniless wrote on January 24, 2013 at 8:01 am

Two things UM and the RAVENS have in common,they are Bad As--s and know how to score.I can not believe  UM will have two 8 minute dry spells with no Baskets.Illinois will come locked and loaded,but UM to much talent and fire power.Great game to watch,just the outcome comes up short.    Big Blue 83   llini   79    Great effort

Bwp 5P wrote on January 24, 2013 at 8:01 am

Nice Work Tim........You, Marcus and I are the only "perfect pickers" so far!!!!!


I keep hoping I'm wrong (worked last time)!


Meecheegan  79


jruss62 wrote on January 24, 2013 at 9:01 am

In stead of NSYNC this will be BOYS to MEN

Illini- 66 

Michigan- 79


illinirev wrote on January 24, 2013 at 9:01 am

I haven't made a correct pick yet, and I hope that I'm wrong again.

Go Home Blue - 79

Hoping to see the orange uni's - 64

74illini wrote on January 24, 2013 at 9:01 am


Michigan's one weakness is its lack of depth.  As it has already been pointed out, Michigan is among the best in the country at not fouling.  They do this and still manage to keep their opponents to less than 60 ppg, truly a statistic of a great team.

Keys to the game:

1) Egwu must stay out of foul trouble and be productive.  He has several ~ 8 pts. 8 rebs. Type games this season, but consistency has been a problem for him and most of that can be contributed to foul trouble issues, which to me show inexperience.  I do think we will see less and less of that as he continues to develop.

2) Abrams and Paul need a combined 2:1 assist to turnover ratio for this game.  Both make too many bad decisions at crucial times in games, especially Abrams. He has got to slow down in transition and learn to take better care of the ball.  Paul needs to concentrate getting into the paint, and also be looking for Egwu when he does.

3) Play harder than Michigan.  The Nebraska game showed me that they do very much still care about this season, if they can bring that effort again against Michigan whether the shots are falling or not, it will make it tough on Michigan getting out of Champaign with a W. 

4) Crowd needs to remind Michigan that it is called the House of Pain! We need to be the 6th man in this game.

If we meet all four those goals, I think we win, but if any one of those goals are not met we will lose.

Michigan 72

Illinois 70

mbelcher wrote on January 24, 2013 at 9:01 am

Michigan  73

Illinois  64

stumblefoot wrote on January 24, 2013 at 10:01 am

wrong placement

stumblefoot wrote on January 24, 2013 at 10:01 am

My picking record is the same as the Illini's Big Ten record.  It looks really, really bad when it's yours and you have to own it.  Here's hoping the boys in orange improve theirs while mine worsens.

The Fellas in Yellow - 72

Illini - 58

Railsplitter wrote on January 24, 2013 at 10:01 am

Well, I was glad I was wrong last week, but I doubt I am this week ILLINI 66   Michigag 74

BleedOandB wrote on January 24, 2013 at 12:01 pm

2 games and 2 technicals...... from the coach. I love it!! This should be a great game. I was at the OHIO ST game this year and Mich St for college game day. The illini play great against great opponents. However, two many three pointers by Mich, plus its not on National Television


Mich 77

ILL 68

rtrott wrote on January 24, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Michigan 79-Illinois 70

ehsfan wrote on January 24, 2013 at 5:01 pm

scUM 79 Illini 65. The Weasels will be playing for the #1 ranking after the Duke embarrassment last night. Their exceptional guards will nullify our on again off again guards on offense and defense.

goillini80 wrote on January 24, 2013 at 9:01 pm

I have really enjoyed reading this piece each week.  Keep up the good work.  First time picker.  Thought I would get in on the fun.

I root for three teams.  Illini first, foremost and always.  Then whoever is playing Michigan and Notre Dame.  So I am in double this week for the Illini.  They can't lose.

scUM  82


Come out hot and roll.  Let's impress the heck out of Jaquan Lyle.

illiniearl wrote on January 25, 2013 at 5:01 am

This has been quite the week for Top-10 upsets!   Unfortunately it ends Sunday.   After watching the Wolverines in action against Purdue on the tube - it looks pretty clear to me how this one will end:

Fichigan:  81

Illini:  66


Green Shirt wrote on January 25, 2013 at 7:01 am

Illinois       75

Michigan   81

IlliniwekMerica wrote on January 25, 2013 at 8:01 am

Egwu's gonna go beast mode with 22 pts, 10 rebounds. But the beast mode performance ends just about as well as the Brewers did in 2011...

Michigan - 79

Illinois - 70

Illini-Phil wrote on January 25, 2013 at 9:01 am

I was wrong with my first pick for the last game and the Pats got knocked out some I am not doing to good. So there's  nothing to lose but, hope. Illini come out shooting and get out of this slump. Hitting 12-3's. When they miss a lot of those long range shots it gives the other team fast break chances, make a few more and who knows!

Illinois 84

Michigan 78

aaeismacgychel wrote on January 25, 2013 at 11:01 am

I hate Michigan. Always have, always will. The hatred doesn't run as deep in basketball as in football, but let's just say there was a ton of cheering in our household when Webber called that extra timeout. I think Illinois can win this game, and while Michigan has played better than I expected this year (or as good as advertised), I still don't see them as the Final Four/National Champion contender most do. To win, we're going to need a big night from our defense, especially in regards to not overcommiting on Burke. As crazy as it sounds, Illinois has to make Burke beat them by scoring. Take away the passing lanes, the open threes and the entry passes to the bigs. Force him to beat you with jumpers, pull-ups, and drives into well positioned bigs. If Illinois can do that and knock down open shots (Huge ifs), this game is there for the taking.

I think Illinois will be ready to play especially with the high ranking Michigan has and I think they play them hard, but I see Illinois falling short. I do believe this game is a lot closer though than it seems on paper, and I would not be shocked if Illinois was able to pull the upset (but they have got to make shots to do it)

The Whore that is Ann Arbor: 77
Illinois: 72

In a game that could go either way.

wincer_85 wrote on January 25, 2013 at 12:01 pm

It was nice to see Illinois get on the left side of the W-L collumn....even if it was a against a below average Nebraska team (hey, better than the outcome last year!) A BIG thanks to DJ for that one. I've seen a few comments about how DJ should be benched. Just because the guy goes into a shooting slump, doesn't mean he quits playing defense or passing the ball. DJ always plays D and plays hard,

Onto Michigan. This game is winnable but is going to be tough. Illinois has to make 3s. If we don't make 3s at a decent percentage, we have no shot at winning, We have to limit Trey Burke's driving ability. I feel that he will be able to get into the lane just about anytime he wants and i fully expect a couple of monster alley-oops from him to Glen Robinsin III. If Burke doesn't lob it up to Robinson, our defense is going to have to sag in to help and that opens up 3s for hardaway, stauskas, etc. If anyone helps off of Stauskas at any point in the game, they should be taken out immediately. If that dude gets an open 3, it is like a layup to him.

 I think (hope) Illinois plays well but Michigan, in the end, just has too many weapons (for some reason, Jordan Morgan really scares me inside.)

Michigan: 76

Illinois: 70

tmh2196 wrote on January 25, 2013 at 1:01 pm

From worst to first.  Lets see if I can get lucky again.  MI had a chance two weeks ago, also on a Sunday, to become the number one rated team in the country.  They failed then, and I hope they fail now. I am glad they won last night because I think they are to strong a team to lose two games in a row.  This Illini team plays better when they are not rated, and they will need big time effort from everyone to pull this one out.  

Thanks Tim for taking the time to do this.  I have been having a lot of fun with it!  So far this year Tim has been perfect.  Here is hoping he stays that way.  




touchdown_illinois wrote on January 25, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Wow am I bad at this. That saying I'll say:

Illini 78

Rodents  77

touchdown_illinois wrote on January 25, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Wow am I bad at this. Therefore I'll say:

Illini 78

scUM 77

DJ hits a 3 to win it and the Hall goes crazy!

teachdacc wrote on January 25, 2013 at 8:01 pm

illini win big games.  This group will pull upset. Illini 85 Maze 83.  Go Illini

Gamefan49 wrote on January 25, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Still sticking with the boys even though the odds are against us.
Illini 76
Michigan 74

Dazed1313 wrote on January 25, 2013 at 11:01 pm
Profile Picture

Rumeal Robinsons' real estate deal    78

Brandon Pauls' jumper                        70


buckhunter2 wrote on January 26, 2013 at 8:01 am

illini   79

mich 76

IlliniGradMom wrote on January 26, 2013 at 10:01 am

Illinois 65

Michigan 78

IlliniDick wrote on January 26, 2013 at 10:01 am

Illinois 80

Michigan 72

Illinois' 3 point game gets back to how it was earlier in the year, especially against Gonzaga.  Great defense from everybody and lastly Brandon Paul drives the ball to the bucket throughout the entire game versus only driving late in the game.


illiniphil85 wrote on January 26, 2013 at 10:01 am

Perhaps the stars align because that may be what it takes win this one. I'm not counting on it however,

scUM 72

Illini 64

IlliniLuther wrote on January 26, 2013 at 7:01 pm

ILL 64  MU 71

IlliniGradDad wrote on January 26, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Michigan 82

Illini 65

I pray my prediction is wrong as I am both an Ohio State grad and Illini fan as my daughter is an Illinois grad...


UIBaton8 wrote on January 27, 2013 at 9:01 am

Thanks for the mention on choosing DJ's big night.  It is tough to pick one player for this game who will set the tone, as, for Illinos to stand a chance at winning, each player is going to have to play their best game.  If I had to choose one factor that could assist our guys with a W, our guards (Paul, Richardson, Abrams, and Bertrand) will need to rack up assists and drive to the hoop.  The 3 won't win it today but aggresive playing, passing, and driving the lane will.

Illinois 72

Michigan 78


Reillini wrote on January 27, 2013 at 1:01 pm



Whatever I predict this team seems to do just the opposite so I may be helping them. And I'm OK with that...On paper Mich. is better than us but that's why they play the game.

So as always   Go Illini

walko wrote on January 27, 2013 at 1:01 pm

"We off"

Pond scUM 72

Illini 66

smills89 wrote on January 27, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Illini 68 

Michigan 74

tmh2196 wrote on January 27, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Wow Tim, way to end the drought.  Great pic!  


I think it is embarasing that the A section constantly has so many empty seats, even for big games.  I know the seats are "sold", but there has to be a way to get B or C section fans to fill those seats after a few min of being empty.  Having those seats empty decreases our home court advantage.  

Tim Ditman wrote on January 27, 2013 at 7:01 pm
Profile Picture

Hey, thanks!  It feels good to get that first correct pick...the RSDT is just luck!  As far as attendance goes, I feel your pain...and I'll touch on that a bit in the next blog.  Look for a new post tomorrow night...including some audio from Coach Groce and Coach Izzo from the Big Ten Teleconference.

illiniearl wrote on January 28, 2013 at 11:01 pm