Wisconsin Thoughts & Indiana Predictions

Wisconsin Thoughts & Indiana Predictions

Is it too early to say the Illini’s NCAA Tournament hopes are on life support?

To use some coach speak, they’re all must-wins…but last night was one the Illini REALLY needed to get.  You can talk about shooting all you want, but with any team, there will be nights like last night where they’re not falling at the highest clip.  So it all goes back to what Coach Groce has been harping on recently…defense.  In his postgame press conference, Groce was a little flabbergasted over how the team hasn’t picked up the slack defensively…seeing as though the team’s defensive schemes haven’t changed that much this season.  In fact, he was flabbergasted so much, that he decided to send a message by taking Brandon Paul out of the starting lineup last night…

Good move or bad move to bench Paul?  I’ll leave that up to all of you to decide.   Either way, the Illini were outplayed.  Maybe another players only meeting is in order?  Even though we media folks are supposed to stay unbiased, it’s no secret that everyone wants to see the team do well.  A good team is much more pleasant to cover (and blog about) than a bad team.  So here’s to the Illini finding lightning in a bottle in the second half of the Big Ten season.

Normally I’d put prediction standings here, but I took care of that last night.  Moving on…

Where to begin with the Hoosiers?  In my mind there’s no doubt it’s Illinois’ number one basketball rivalry.  Great matchups between Knight and Henson…the Eric Gordon game (yeah, that’s me over there)…the fact that the series is almost even (84-83 IU)…heck, it even made the cover of Sports Illustrated.  Sadly, though, when it Blog PhotoBlog Photocomes to this year’s matchup, I think I could get away with copying and pasting my comments from either the Minnesota or Michigan blog.  That is…these guys are good.  It’s not just the Cody Zeller show, as they’re getting plenty of contributions from a member of the all-name team, Victor Oladipo, and others.  They’re tops in the nation in outscoring their opponents and scoring in general.  They’ve also made defensive improvements from the start of the season…going from 41% to 37% in field goal defense and from +1.8 to +10.3 in rebounding margin.  Plus, they have a guy named Yogi…what’s not to like about that?

Speaking of Yogi, Coach Tom Crean was singing his praises today on the Big Ten Coaches Teleconference.

And here's Coach Groce on prepping for IU...

While we’re on the subject of Crean, what are everyone’s opinions of the dude?  His demeanor seems to rub some people the wrong way, but you can’t deny the way he’s Blog Phototurned the program around after the Kevin Sampson debacle.  Perhaps it’s a Wes Mantooth-Ron Burgundy-I hate you but I respect you- sort of deal.  Either way, I think he’s in it for the long haul, and soon they’ll be taking down Sampson’s banners and putting new ones up.

Prediction-wise, this falls into the same camp as Michigan.  Not expected to win…super great if you do.  No one in the athletic department should be offended by any of our picks, assuming most of you go along the same lines as me…

MY PREDICTION:  Indiana 80, Illinois 62

So now it’s time for you to sound off.  It’s another early tipoff on Thursday, so don’t get caught napping and post past the deadline.

Blog PhotoOther news and notes:

  • Congrats to wincer_85, who correctly picked both the winner and margin of victory in the Superbowl.  No prize for that one…just bragging rights.  What was everyone's favorite commercial?
  • The Illini women’s hoopsters continue to roll…picking up a road win over Wisconsin yesterday.  The team, now in 3rd place in the conference, has won five B1G road games in a row…a first for the program in a single season.  You have to go back to 1999, when Lon Kruger’s men’s team went 14-18 and Theresa Gretz’s ladies went 19-12, to find a year when the women made the big dance and the men didn’t.  Will we see that again this year???
  • I’ve only briefly touched on the Assembly Hall renovation in this blog, but with some new photos coming out, I figured I’d give it a few lines.  Unlike other renderings we’ve seen, these appear to be pretty official.  And I like what I see.  As much as the donors will hate it, the number one priority in my mind is to get as many students as close to the floor as possible…and then showcase those students on TV.  It looks like this new plan does that.  Per our Loren Tate, look for some movement on all this in May.


COMING UP ON THURSDAY OR FRIDAY:  Indiana Thoughts, Prediction Standings, & Minnesota Predictions

[life support & Yogi audio via MovieClips on YouTube, SI photo via sportsillustrated.com, Groce & Crean sound via BTN, Assembly Hall photo via Re-Assemble Assembly Hall on Facebook]


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Bwp 5P wrote on February 04, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Until Brandon picks up his game....he doesn't deserve to start. What a shame that someone that shows his skills sometimes....can't seem to do it consistently!



Struggling Illini 64

They will more than likely be given a clinic on teamwork, skilled passing and effort.........something sorely missing from these guys since Christmas!

aaeismacgychel wrote on February 04, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Tim, Great pic from the Gordon game. Gosh do I remember that. Even moreso do I wish we won. We were so close even with our severely overmatched team. That was quite perhaps the loudest I ever heard Assembly Hall (and Assembly Hall did get quite loud back in the day), and it was also the angriest and just downright nasty fanbase to ever grace the Hall (in a good way). In fact, if memory serves me correctly, I think the fans heckled, mocked, jeered, and flashed dollar bills at Eric Gordon so much that they were warned to be on their best behavior or have the Krush disbanded. Hence the Iowa(?) game with the polite applause for all calls and plays, and saying only platitudes to the refs and opposing players. Glad to know you were part of that!

As for the Brandon Paul benching, when I heard it, I wanted to change my pick immediately to Wisconsin. I personally didn't think much good would come of it and that it was a controversial decision at best. Based on gameplay while Paul wasn't on the court, and Paul's play during the game, the move was clearly a failure. The Illini did not have the spark Groce was desiring and Paul struggled to find a rhythm for much of the game. While I understand the decision was "defense based" it seemed more like a decision to bench the senior leader and best player to try and send a message to the team, and it didn't work. Plus, it's really hard to blame Paul over the rest of the team for defensive woes. If anything, Paul has been a Top 2 defender on the team and is in the Top 3 of pretty much every important defensive category. And to say Bertrand and Abrams' defense has been better than his during this recent stretch? I don't buy it. This was a "send a mesage" benching and it didn't work.

Indiana unfortunately is superior to Illinois in almost every way right now. But Zeller is well known to be taken out of games by teams that get physical with him. Illinois has got to guard the three like no tomorrow and make Zeller fight and scrap every single possession. Both McLaurin and Egwu, need to bump him every single time when he's on the blocks. They just have to basically hit him and make him expand energy the whole game. And they have to hope the refs decide they're going to let the physical play go. But Illinois has to set that standard from the opening tip forcing the refs to determine that's just the way the game is going to be played and thus swallowing their whistles. Doing this means Oladipo will have a huge game, but fine. if Zeller's legs are gone by the end of the game and he disappears, and you don't give open threes, then you at least have a chance.

The only other thing going for Illinois is the #1 next to Indiana's name and the fact that Indiana might be looking ahead to the following game @OSU. That said, that's a heck of a lot to ask for. Illinois holds this one closer than they should, but a loss is a loss.

Indiana: 78
Illinois: 70

aaeismacgychel wrote on February 04, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Oh, and one other thing to this already overly long post- Sadly, Tim, I think we're past the severe danger of being right on the bubble alarms. We needed to win this game to even have a realistic shot at the tourney. We currently have the 5th toughest and rising SOS in the country, and it only gets worse the next couple games. We start seeing winnable games again thereafter, but just not enough to have a real shot. Even if we were to win all of these "easy" games:

"Easy wins"

We still have to win these "Hard wins"

And at least 1, maybe 2 of these huge upsets:

And then, we'd probably need to make the BTT semifinals. While we haven't technically eliminated ourselved from the NCAA tourney yet, the chance we have left is a snowball's chance in hell. Unfortunately, I just can't see it happening. Even the best teams in the B10 would have issues going 7-2 or even 6-3 with that "easiest part of the schedule" for Illinois. Losing to Northwestern and Wisconsin at home pretty much sealed Illinois' fate.

tonyjb37 wrote on February 04, 2013 at 3:02 pm
Profile Picture

Hosers  82      Posers  62

Moonpie wrote on February 04, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Another incoherent Ditman column--he's perfect for the Sleepy Gazoo. It's all about so-called hip references and mangling the language to sound hip hop, perhaps.

He's not pulling a Bushleague Jackson and predicting an Illini win?



sinfonian11 wrote on February 05, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Another incoherent Moonpie comment.  It's all about so-called keeping it real.

For a guy who hates this place so much, he sure spends a lot of time here...

Railsplitter wrote on February 04, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Don't know how sitting Paul could not be more justified . He's a turnover machine. It looks like he's dribbling on a pile of brickbats at times. How many times will Oladipo take the ball from him Thursday ? Just think about it .  Anyway Hurrying Hockers 87 Illness 73 .  Man this makes me sick .

Railsplitter wrote on February 04, 2013 at 4:02 pm

But then Moonpie makes me sick too. Cut the fool off Tim.

Bwp 5P wrote on February 04, 2013 at 4:02 pm

I agree Railsplitter.....HairPie....er....Moonpie needs a one way trip to the Moon. What a bore!

aaeismacgychel wrote on February 04, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Here's the issue: Brandon Paul averages 3.0topg, or on 19.0% of possessions [Pomeroy]. Tracy Abrams averages 2.9topg, or on 23.6% of possessions [Pomeroy] Should Tracy Abrams be benched too or can we finally stop pretending Brandon Paul and Tracy Abrams are something they aren't? Both share the primary ballhandling and passing duties of this team, yet neither of them are a true point guard. That's the issue. We play Brandon Paul out of position and scream and yell at him because he can't play that position. It's completely unfair to blame him and call for his benching simply because he can't play the point guard position we force him to play. He is best off the ball either shooting or driving, not with it.

Let's put things in perspective: Evan Turner was a great player for OSU, right? I'm sure many of us wish he played for us, right? When he was forced out of position to play the point, he averaged a whopping 4.4topg on 21.5% of possessions [Pomeroy]! He was a terrible point guard! Just awful! Up more than a full turnover per game on average from when he played his appropriate position. His stats:

ET '10: 22.8pp40, 1.09ppp(pts per posession), 10.3rp40, 6.7ap40, 1.9sp40, 1.0bp40, 4.9top40

BP '13: 22.0pp40, 1.05ppp (pts per possession), 5.8rp40, 3.7ap40, 1.6sp40, 1.0bp40, 3.8top40

Now listen, I'm not trying to compare Brandon Paul to Evan Turner (even though I am), but those lines are pretty even outside of ET being the clearly better rebounder and assister and Brandon Paul shockingly being much better with the ball. That said, both have very similar efficiency statistics, and similar scoring and defensive statistics. So why are we unable to understand as a fanbase that you can't play a person out of position and expect miracles, when OSU understood it with Turner? You can't force an apple to be an orange even when you really want that orange and you only have an apple. It doesn't work. It's just so unfortunate how negative we are with him, when all he does is play hard every game when we've misused him through much of his career. By the way, back when we used Brandon in his proper position in 2010, he averaged 1.8topg, or 3.2top40, down a whole 0.6top40 than what he's averaging now. The reason we see Brandon Paul as a failure is simply because he's not a point guard and yet he has to play it all the same because we just don't have anyone else. And that's the issue.

Mike Goebel wrote on February 04, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Tim, love that picture of you! That's some fantastic stuff right there!

I am tempted to pick Indiana by 50. Instead, I'll go Indiana 90, Illinois 66.

penniless wrote on February 04, 2013 at 6:02 pm

No doubt about it,the Ilini are bad,but two teams in Conference suck more.That my friends are the only two wins left this season.I'm thankful the Huskers and PSU must play at CU.Ilini have no matchups to win with Crean and Company.How bad will it be? BAD !!! Indiana  87 Illini  63

Green Shirt wrote on February 04, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Indiana       80

Illinois         70

JamesB wrote on February 04, 2013 at 6:02 pm

I think we'll play them tough early, we'll be all jacked up and hit a few 3s.  But the 2nd half will be all IU and they win it going away.


IU 81

UI 70

ehsfan wrote on February 04, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Not much hope in this one. A win over IU would make up for a lot of the pain, but it is not likely to even be close. IU 83 Illini 65

1 illinifan wrote on February 04, 2013 at 8:02 pm

There must be a relative of Brandon Paul on this thread. Paul was benched because he is inconsistent, as a player (offense and defense) and leader. You can save the entire magical math for another time. If it was a matter of playing the wrong position then he would be consistently bad at it, but still consistent. His shooting percentages are all over the place. Does playing the wrong position cause this? Hardly! Groce is a winner, hates losing, so frustration in general as well as with the team’s attitude once it hit conference play. Weber instilled such a poor mentality over the last 3 years that Groce just did not expect the attitude to be this difficult to change. Maybe blindsided a little because of the success early. It is clear that a winning attitude will have to come with new blood; he has some good players coming so things will be brighter next year. Anybody who thinks that this team is going to the NCAA has blinders on. Hope fully we win a game or two yet but that is the best these players, or any players with this kind of weak (or some kind of mental block) mental attitude. Said a few weeks ago that they would win 2 or 3 games yet this year, they have won 1 since then. Sadly that is the reality, my optimism keeps thinking that a string of wins will happen and we are at the dance, which is dying more every game, reality is starting to set in.


Indy 90

Illini 60

Hopefully a good attitude team shows up (Gonzaga game) and make it a fight, same result, just a closer score.

aaeismacgychel wrote on February 05, 2013 at 1:02 pm

No, not a relative, just someone who's sick and tired of Illinois fans picking scapegoats for every single ill in the universe. Especially in this case of one who is undeserving. I like how "magical math" doesn't apply and I like even more the "inconsistent play". Basically it's fans saying, Brandon needs to score at the very least 25ppg and have 2 or less turnovers per game every single time out. And me saying that what we as a fanbase ask out of Brandon is ludicrous. And while you don't like "magical math", let's look into your consistency claim using B10 games as a factor:

Points per Offensive Possession in each of 9 B10 games:
Brandon: 1.18, 1.09, 1.04, 0.54, 1.01, 0.95, 1.00, 1.09, 0.87----> AVG=0.97, STDEV=0.19
Tracy: 0.92, 1.07, 1.12, 1.03, 0.78, 0.39, 1.00, 1.18, 0.78----> AVG=0.92, STDEV=0.24
DJ: 0.90, 0.89, 0.96, 1.37, 0.76, 1.90, 0.90, 1.14, 1.14----> AVG=1.11, STDEV=0.35
Tyler: 1.82, 0.47, 0.00, 0.33, 1.22, 0.53, 0.98, 2.05, 0.00----> AVG=0.82, STDEV=0.75
Joseph: 1.06, 1.15, 0.75, 1.10, 0.15, 1.17, 0.99, 1.11, 1.32----> AVG=0.98, STDEV=0.35

Based on those averages, DJ Richardson has been our best offensive guard in conference, with Brandon Paul and Joseph Bertrand behind him. Based on standard deviation, Brandon Paul has been by far our most consistent player game to game in conference. His offense and shooting percentages being all over the map in conference play is an argument that just does not hold water. I know that it's "magical math", but really, I think it just goes to show that really, he should have transferred to a school that better appreciates him, because our fanbase gave up on him long ago. And it's a shame because he puts his heart and soul into the team and every game he plays. And the day that our fanbase can't appreciate effort and hard work is a day that I have trouble appreciating our fanbase.

Eric 22 wrote on February 05, 2013 at 6:02 am

Big win by th HoHos this weekend means big let down, plus how many can the Illini really lose in a row at home.  All reality aside -  Illini - 75,  HoHos - 70

P.S. Can't wait until the NCAA catches up to Crean like they did with Sampson.  He already had one incident between players and their AAU coach, next time the NCAA will connect the dots and realize the AAU coach gets kick backs from Crean and staff.

basketball junkie1123 wrote on February 05, 2013 at 6:02 am

Indiana 95

Illinois 50

Groce wishes he stayed at ohio U

I hope incoming class can play Groce defense.

74illini wrote on February 05, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Bench Brandon, he should get even less time.  I am sick and tired of watching that kid play for nothing but himself.  So many times I watched him pass up opportunties for a better shot by not passing the ball to the open team mate.  Instead he wants to shoot fade away 25 footers and 1 on 4 drives to the basket out of control, while flailing his arms in the air in a hope to go the free frow line.  I don't play him again until he decides to play team ball period.  

Abrams, Bertrand, & Egwu are going to be solid ball players.  They play hard.  Egwu just needs time to cook, but he will get there soon enough, trust me.  Tracy needs to work on passing first.  It is on his shoulders to be able to lead this team. He probably has the best passing capabilities of anyone else on the team, but he needs to drastically improve it as well.  He does a great job of drawing multiple defenders, if he can open up his court vision, his assists would go up drastically. 

Indiana plays with some tough pressure.  Key to the game will be defense.  If we can pressure them and do it by not fouling I think we can play some havoc.  Indiana and Michigan are likely the two best teams in the country.  I hope the refs we have had the last few games don't show up. I would like to see a well officiated game for once.

Hoosiers 81

Illinois 67

buckhunter2 wrote on February 05, 2013 at 8:02 am

only way to try and get back in the standings  

TA   last second three   LOL


ILLINI     86

HOOS    85

Gamefan49 wrote on February 05, 2013 at 10:02 am

It hurts but I am going against my boys.

Illini 74

Indiana  83

BleedOandB wrote on February 05, 2013 at 11:02 am

OK Football is over with now to concentrate on Basketball!! We need a miracle. Its happened before (Arizona tourney). I need it to happen, they need it to happen, ILLINI NATION need this one.

Illini 74

IND 71

Lou calls Bob and takes him to dinner.

illiniearl wrote on February 07, 2013 at 11:02 am


Indiana  76

Illini  66

illiniphil85 wrote on February 05, 2013 at 11:02 am

It's maddening how little basketball skills this roster has. 

IU 76

UI 68

CecilColeman wrote on February 05, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Great point phil - - - - add to that how little basketball I Q.

Shon Morris pointed this out vividly on Sunday; Bertrand gets hot then doesn't even touch the ball for the next 3-4 possessions.

rbarnes wrote on February 05, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Hoosiers 84
Illini 60

No tourney for the Illini this year either.

walker wrote on February 05, 2013 at 3:02 pm

If the team that thumped Butler, Zaga & OSU shows up we might only lose by five or so, but since that team no longer exists...


IND  79

ILL   64

CLBlood wrote on February 05, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Anything can happen. Especially in Champaign. Indiana takes us for granted; Zeller rolls an ankle; Egwu has his career game; friendly home rims; Griffey comes out of his funk. Hey look, Martha, here's a crazy guy that says:


Illinois 89, Indiana 86 in overtime.

gregscott wrote on February 05, 2013 at 6:02 pm

I think Brandon Paul is a wonderfully skilled athlete, but the frustration I have, and I think many fans as well, is his mental disconnect; summed up by one play in the Michigan State game.  Start of the second half Brandon tries to dribble from the point to the left wing and just looses his dribble.  Defender didn't make a steal attempt and wasn't even up on him, he was dribbling one second, and the next he didn't even have the ball.  Result; unforced turnover, layup for MSU, momentum shot. 



















CecilColeman wrote on February 05, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Indiana Hoosiers    90

Bruce's leftovers     63

Brandon Paul          6 turnovers (at least)

Just a few years ago the Illini were on top of the Big 10 with Indiana and Kelvin Sampson at the bottom. Then Bruce ran out of Self's players. Since then we've been treated to Senrau and Carwell and Tisdale and fifth year transers from Bradley (with a bum ankle) and College of Charleston. And all those great players Wayne McClain was gonna bring in from Peoria. And Bruce's big ties to the talent in Indiana. And Jerrance and his AAU connections.  What - A - Nightmare!



tmh2196 wrote on February 06, 2013 at 8:02 am

Every home game I have had tickets for this season, Illini has lost.  I do not know how you can lose to NW at home and ever expect to beat this hoosier team.  I do not have tickets for this one, and this Illini team is do for a good shooting night.  I hope the illini can steal one at home, but I doubt it.  

It is interesting to see the year that K-State is having with Bruce at the helm.  



Bob Patterson wrote on February 06, 2013 at 9:02 am
Profile Picture

Indiana 84 Illinois 68 Hope I am wrong

jruss62 wrote on February 06, 2013 at 10:02 am

Illini - 66

Indiana - 73

wincer_85 wrote on February 06, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Thanks for the shouout for picking the right spread and winner for the Superbowl, Tim. I wouldn't have been close if not for the power outage (baltimore may have won by 50 without the stoppage.)

So Indiana is pretty good this year. Not as good as everyone is making them out to be, but they're one of the top 8 or so teams in the country. One thing about Indiana under Crean has been that they don't play great on the road. I think we come out fired up and build a good-sized lead in the first half and also play well in the 2nd half, too. This game kinda has the feeling of a perfect storm: A desperate team, in front of the home crowd, against the #1 team in the  country. Throw in the fact that Indiana doesn't play great away from Bloomington, they are feeling good about themselves after beating the #1 team last week, and they may be looking ahead to playing at Ohio State this weekend.

The thing that worries me is if our shots aren't falling. That leads to long rebounds and Indiana loves to run. We have to get back! Remember all of the dunks that Minnesota got on fast breaks? If we don't get back, this could be even uglier than that.

Illinois feeds off the home crowd, makes shots (weird!), and hangs on! New #1 again next week!

Indiana: 70

Illinois: 76

And to answer your question on Tom Crean, Tim: I hate him. I don't think anyone really "likes" him other than his family, people in bloomington/marquette, and Dwayne Wade

smills89 wrote on February 06, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Illinios 62

Indiana 75

mbelcher wrote on February 06, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Illinois  82

Indiana  79

krervin2 wrote on February 06, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Illinois 68

Indiana 66

joey wrote on February 06, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Indiana 93

Illinois 68

Coach Groce, please convince everyone on the team to leave, except for Egwu, Abrams, and Bertrand - all 3 of whom should be back-ups next year.

sunnyd503 wrote on February 07, 2013 at 12:02 am

I have long wondered why in the world Moonpie rags on NG so much. Maybe they turned him down in a job interview or something. Anyway...

I really wish I could pick the Illini, but Indiana is the most impressive team I've watched this season. I don't think there is that clear #1 team this year though. That said, Indiana is closest to it. And Oladipo may be the best player in college basketball.

Crean's Green Juice 84 Groce's NITtin Illini 71

IlliniLuther wrote on February 07, 2013 at 5:02 am

IU 77 ILL 64

stumblefoot wrote on February 07, 2013 at 10:02 am

BleedOandB is giving us a chance at victory.  And, while my heart hopes the boys in Orange are able to pull off the huge upset tonight, my brain tells me the only chance of getting back in this challenge requires measured moves.

Hoosiers - 85

Illini - 69

IlliniGradDad wrote on February 07, 2013 at 2:02 pm

86 Indiana

54 Illinois

IlliniGradMom wrote on February 07, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Indiana 78

Illinois 65


IlliniDick wrote on February 07, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Illinois 60

Indiana 78

We're finished.  In this game Richardson and Abrams will make sure to make themselves look good at any cost.

walko wrote on February 07, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Illini could win this game if they played for 40 minutes the way they did in the first half against the Spartans-but they won't. I just hope they don't get blown out.

Hoosiers 79

Illini 69

Reillini wrote on February 07, 2013 at 4:02 pm



Lets just play defense tonight and see what happens.

Go Illini

UIBaton8 wrote on February 07, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Men's Game - Illinois 79 Indiana 97

Women's Game - Illinois 93 Michigan 88

Dazed1313 wrote on February 07, 2013 at 5:02 pm
Profile Picture

IU       83


UI       77