Illini look to have a slight edge by the numbers.
As you know by now, the Illini are the #7 seed in the East Regional, playing #10 seed Colorado in their first game on Friday in Austin, TX. Let's take a look at these teams in terms of efficency to see how they match up.
First, looking at the Ken Pomeroy rankings, Illinois remains steady at #42, exactly where they were before the loss to Indiana. Colorado is a few spots down at #50. The Illini are bit better on the offensive end, the Buffaloes have a slight edge defensively. Screen shot to the left, full rankings in the link above.
Next, let's break things down a bit more for each team using a few of my favorite efficiency stats. First for the Illini on the season, with national ranks in parenthesis:
This shows one thing most fans already know: the Illini have struggled to shoot since their very hot start in the non-conference season. But, it also shows that they've taken very good care of the basketball, which if you asked most fans, they probably would not think that based on the eye test. As for the Buffaloes:
Colorado plays good defense by not allowing high percentage shots, and by doing a pretty good job of clearing the defensive rebound. Turnovers are problematic for the Buffaloes on both ends of the floor, as they commit too many and don't force very many on the defensive end.
If you're looking for a couple of early keys in this matchup, simply based on these numbers, I would offer the following. Illinois needs to decisively win the turnover battle, and they need to keep Colorado from making up for those lost possessions with too many second chances from the offensive glass. It doesn't look like either of these teams will be winning many shooting contests, so whoever can get some easy looks in transition should also have the edge.
Thanks to teamrankings.com for providing all of these season stats.