Illini and Hawkeyes, that one was…
OK, I kid. It wasn’t that awful. But it reminded me a lot of the Illini team we saw in the stretch of games before Indiana. Long shooting droughts (11 minutes in the first half in this case), circus shots, etc. The team’s one saving grace, though, was its defense, even though the box score didn’t really show it. But unlike previous years in the Big Ten, you can’t rely on defense alone this year if you want to be competitive. I know a lot of you were comfortable with picking Iowa, and I don’t fault you for that, but in my eyes this is one that could have easily gone the Illini’s way if the shots were falling and the confidence was higher. Let’s all just breathe a sigh of relief that this one wasn’t an NCAA Tournament taker-outer.
Rather than picking one postgame comment from Coach Groce, I decided to post the whole interview. Enjoy.
Mbelcher takes top honors this game, with the picks split pretty much even among the 38 of you. Overall, BleedOandB maintains his lead, but walko and penniless have finally caught up to him in the win column. Walko is in the driver’s seat to win the end of the season prize, but penniless and Reillini could catch him. We had two new pickers this game, which bumps us up to 85 pickers for the year. I also heard from a few Iowa fans this go around, some of which disagreed with my assessment of Fran McCaffery. It’s always good to hear the other side, and healthy debate is never a bad thing.
No bad losses on the OSU schedule since they last met the Illini. Really no bad losses on their schedule period...and a heckuva good win last night at IU. So not only is their confidence sky high, you can bet that last meeting with the Illini will be fresh on the mind of the Buckeyes this Sunday. Heck, the beatdown was so bad I got bored in the first half. And if recent history is any indication, you would think the Buckeyes would rebound with a big home win against the Illini. That’s exactly what happened last year. But back to the present…OSU is a well-rounded, well coached team that excels in most if not all areas of the game. You just hope to catch them on an off day. When I previewed the Illini’s first meeting with OSU this year, I said to keep an eye on free throw shooting as a possible Achilles Heel of the Buckeyes. Well, recent box scores show that the team has shored up that category, as the percentages have gone from in the 60s to in or just near the 80s.
This is similar to the Michigan game. It’s not a resume killer if you lose (just don’t get blown out)…and it’s like finding money on the street if you win.
MY PREDICTION: Ohio State 69, Illinois 57
That prediction may seem low scoring, but the Illini have had low outputs in their last four road games, and OSU has been all over the place scoring-wise at home. So it’s a best guess.
OK, this is it…the final prediction of the year. Get your picks to me by tipoff on Sunday.
I had the football staff changes on the backburner as a possible blog topic, but decided against it because things died down. But with Bridge’s departure, I had to speak up. Does all of the turnover concern everyone else? It’s one thing to get the players to buy in to a system, but what message does it send when coaches up and leave for greener pastures, especially so quick after being hired? This team, like last year, will pretty much be starting over from scratch. And this time, there’s more pressure on the head man.
Another soundbite from the pregame show…from Brian Barnhart on the diminshing of the Iowa-Illinois basketball rivalry recently:
I agree with Brian…it’s a generational thing. I’m 23 and don’t consider Iowa a rival at all. I think in basketball, it’s Indiana, then everyone else. In recent years, you could say MSU was a top rival, but honestly I think a lot of that had to do with the friendship/rivalry between Izzo and Weber. And that’s obviously gone now.
COMING UP ON SUNDAY (the final post of the season): OSU Thoughts, Final Standings, & A Look Ahead
[Spartan audio via hark.com, Spartan photo via tumblr]