Tyler Griffey: not a one hit wonder…
Really happy to see Tyler continue the momentum from the IU game , and really happy overall to see another game  in which the Illini were able to scrap and claw from behind. What I saw last night reminded me of the Illini we saw to start the season, at least in their shooting prowess. And although TG gets the lead highlight clip in this blog post, honorable mention goes to Tracy Abrams, who had three of his five points (and his only field goal) in the most clutch of times.
Also want to include a soundbite that stood out to me in Coach Groce's postgame interview. After the Wisconsin game , Groce mentioned that the guys were struggling a bit with trusting the system. But per his comments last night, it seems like that's been turned around.
Ok, so NOW what do we think of the Illini’s postseason chances? If the team continues its hot streak, I’m looking at five more Big Ten wins – Purdue, Northwestern, Penn State, Nebraska, and Iowa – which puts them at 9-9 with four wins over ranked teams and a healthy RPI. That’s a definite dance invite. Slip to 8-10, you’re still looking pretty good. Slip to 7-11, then it’s a 50-50 shot, and if your late season losses are to bad teams, you hurt your chances even more. But as I said, I don’t see that happening, which means a tournament berth for Coach Groce in his first year…which is a GREAT accomplishment in my opinion.
Looking at the prediction standings, we had four people – teachdacc, buckhunter2, touchdown_illinois, and UIBaton8 – who predicted the margin of victory right on the nose. We had 44 pickers overall this game, with no new faces, and a 43%-57% split in those picking Illinois to Minnesota. Overall, BleedOandB remains in the lead despite his/her incorrect pick. Walko and penniless are second and third, respectively, and there are six folks who are two games off the pace at 5-6. Overall, we held steady at 81 total pickers.
Well, looking at the Illini’s desperate need to get wins now, you look back at the Big Ten opener  vs. the Boilers and think about how good it would have been to get that one. But like Rafiki says, there’s no sense in living in the past, so let’s take a look at how the Boilers have fared since that January 2nd matchup. They’ve gone 5-6 while more or less winning the games they were favored in, including an out of conference win vs. West Virginia. Their stats show that they’re still a low scoring team (65 PPG) that attacks the paint in lieu of shooting threes (4 threes made per game…0/10 from long range vs. Penn State…over half of their scoring coming in the paint…you get the idea.). AJ Hammons may not be a household name yet, but he’s been strong for the Boilers lately (17 PPG & 10 RPG over the last five games). That assignment will probably be split between Egwu and McLaurin, so their ability to contain the seven-footer could be the difference maker in this one.
As usual on a Monday, I got to listen to some of the B1G coaches talk about the week ahead on their weekly teleconference. Here's Coach Groce on gameplanning for AJ Hammons...
And here's Purdue Coach Matt Painter on the wacky B1G season so far.
Predicition-wise, this is a fairly easy one. Illinois is riding high and desperate for wins…Purdue is a .500 team and in a down year…and honestly, the two teams’ last meeting doesn’t affect my choice much since so much time has passed and the teams have evolved a lot since then. The Illini jump out in front early en route to…
MY PREDICTION: Illinois 69, Purdue 57
So it’s another quick turnaround prediction-wise. Do your research, talk to your dog, look at your magic 8 ball, do whatever you do, but get your pick in by 8 PM Wednesday. Again, if you haven’t missed a game so far this year, you’re highly encouraged to keep picking to stay in the running for the season prize.
- We could see some clarity soon about how the new Big Ten Conference (with Maryland and Rutgers) will operate in terms of divisions, schedules, etc. Per northwestern AD Jim Phillips on the WDWS’ Saturday Sportsline , the conference’s athletic directors will meet in the next few days to talk it all over. Whether there will be another Illinois-Northwestern game at Wrigley Field, though, Phillips kept that close to the vest.
- With all the talk of gimmicky uniforms  in the B1G this year, I thought I’d give my fashion advice. The talk around the Illini basketball program is to reserve the orange uniforms for special occasions. That would be fine…if the athletic department hadn’t already branded itself around the color! At one time we had Paint the Hall Orange…at one time the tickets said “wear orange”…90% of the merchandise is orange…it’s all just a given at this point. So I think the uniforms should reflect that by wearing orange as much as possible. If you want something for special occasions, come up with a throwback uniform or something to that effect.
- It’ll be a unique night of sports programming on WDWS  tonight, with three coaches with Illini ties on the air back to back. At 7, it’s the John Groce Show. Then at 8, we’ll have bonus basketball between Kansas (Bill Self) and Kansas State (Bruce Weber). We just can’t quit them, can we?
- Wonder what the Illini’s upset of Indiana sounded like from the other side?
COMING UP ON WEDNESDAY OR THURSDAY: Purdue Thoughts, Prediction Standings, & Northwestern Predictions.