Friday, February 18, 2005

Slump? What slump?

All the angst over Roger Powell's recent performances as well as concerns about the team's offense were washed away Wednesday night in Illinois' blowout win over the Penn State Nittany Kittens. Powell went 10 for 10 and the Illinois offense totaled 83 points, even with reserves playing for a substantial portion of the game. In a week in which the teams ranked #2, 3, 7 (Duke lost twice), and 9 have all lost, the Illini scored a convincing victory.

Does one game answer all of the questions that members of the media (who else?) have raised in the past couple weeks in the media? Probably not--otherwise they wouldn't have anything to write about. Prior to the Penn State game, people were pointing out that the Illini's scoring was down in the conference games as compared to the non-conference games, other teams like North Carolina were at times scoring over 100 points per game, etc. Over the past couple of weeks, I have been pondering why that might be the case. Here are is my theory.

The teams we are playing in conference have now played us multiple times over the past two years and have some familiarity with the Illini offense. Thus, they have a better idea of how to TRY to defend it. That's it. That's my theory. Probably not too deep of one but it is the one that seems to make the most sense.

Think about it--the non-conference teams we played had either never played against Illinois' version of the motion offense or had maybe played against it once last season. Only one of those teams challenged the Illini and that was Missouri. However, once you hit the Big 10 season, those teams were much more familiar with the Illinois offense. Thanks to our personnel and a great coach, the offense is never easy to defend but it is at least slightly easier to defend when you have seen it two or more times before and have a little feel for what the Illini are doing. Say what you will about the Big 10 Conference this year but, unlike most ACC teams and a lot of teams from the other power conferences, virtually all of our conference's teams play tough, hard-nosed defense.

Illinois has shown it can play any style other teams want--up and down, grind it out, slow it down, you name it. They have one games playing every style and they will continue to do so. Don't worry about a slump from an individual player or the team. They simply know how to win.

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