Friday, January 23, 2009

Bring on the Badgers

The Badgers have had it rough over the past couple weeks and are coming to Champaign on a 3-game losing streak. After starting off conference play with a road win in Ann Arbor, they've struggled more than expected. They just barely hung on against Penn State at home, and after dominating Northwestern at home, they lost at Purdue, were upset by Minnesota in Madison and lost to Iowa in overtime on the road. So the Illini will be facing a team desparate for a win to maintain their place in the conference.

On the other side of the court, the Illini are on the rise, and should continue to head that direction given their senior leadership. And they are tied with Purdue for second in the conference standings, just one loss behind the Spartans who just dropped a home game to Northwestern. (Yes, Northwestern beat Michigan State at the Breslin Center. The Big Ten really is beating up on each other.)

Statistically, the Illini are slightly better than the Badgers in most categories -- even average rebounds and free throws. But stats can't predict a game. The big question is how will the Badgers respond to their current losing streak? Expect them to come out hard in Champaign.

The Illini defense will have their hands full with Marcus Landry and Trevon Hughes, and the Mikes down low will need to go to the basket strong against Landry. To date, the Illini have done a good job shutting down opponents' top scorers (or shutting off their water, as commentator Steve Lavin likes to say), at least in the first half, which limits the damage they can do in a game.

If the Illini continue to pass, limit turnovers and play defense, they should be able to handle the Badgers at Assembly Hall. But given what we've seen in the Big Ten so far, the Illini can take nothing for granted.

Should be a good game. Go Illini!


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