Of the most recent five, I think this loss hurts the most. Kind of like someone mercilessly chewing on your finger…
Why, you ask, is this the toughest to swallow in the losing streak? Because after a tentative first half (for both teams, really), the Illini were starting to play with more confidence, Nnanna Egwu was breaking out of his slump, and the defense was coming up with stops. But those stops don’t matter much if you can’t follow it up with a bucket…or even a rebound to keep the possession alive. Tonight wasn’t a regression, but that’s probably no consolation to most of you.
If you’re wondering about the play of Ray Rice and Tracy Abrams, Coach Groce kinda sorta addressed it afterward…
My opinion on Ray Rice’s play tonight? I’d chalk it mostly up to a good scout by OSU, but there’s a small part of me that still thinks Ray’s hip is limiting his ability to drive to the basket. And if you take that weapon out of his arsenal, there’s trouble.
Another good round of picks this game, as all but two of you picked up another notch in the win column with most of the RSDTs in single digits. Special kudos goes to stumblefoot and BleedOandB for nailing the margin of victory. Overall, no major changes among the top dogs.
Next up - candy-stripers, round two…
Some of my observations since the last time we saw the fightin’ Creans: One, I have overlooked Noah Vonleh. He’s snagged six (!) B1G Freshmen of the Week honors, and opposing coaches have been subbing just to find the right matchup with him. That matchup, as you might expect, often involves double teams, leaving a man open for a kickout. Two, “that other” Assembly Hall is a vicious place to play. The fans, young and old, know their four letter words and know how to get in your head. And most importantly, three, Coach Crean has made it clear recently that this Hoosier team is still a work in progress. One game it’s a lack of focus…the next it’s not finishing at the rim. Those inconsistencies have caused Crean to put playing time up for grabs. He summed up his squad’s areas for improvement after its loss to Michigan State on Tuesday.
My prediction: Indiana 65, Illinois 59 (If it weren’t for the slump, I’d pick the good guys.)
Remember – you’ll likely have to pick every game to be in the running for our end of the season prize (football tickets). So don’t let the recent results get you down…keep picking!
Coming up Sunday: IU thoughts, standings, & Iowa predictions
[end game audio via ESPN, Charlie audio via HDCYT on YouTube, Crean gif via BTN/Mocksession, Crean audio via The Hoosier Scoop]