Quick! Someone photoshop Brian's head onto an Illinois player's body.
|WHAT||Michigan (21-7, 13-3 B1G) at Illinois (17-12, 6-10)|
|WHERE||State Farm Center, Champaign, Illinois|
|WHEN||7 pm Eastern, Tuesday|
|LINE||Michigan -1 (KenPom)|
|TV||ESPN/WatchESPN (PBP: Mike Tirico; Analyst: Dan Dakich)|
Right: Nice work, boss. [Fuller]
This section is very simple now that a share of the conference crown is secured. If Michigan wins, they're the outright Big Ten champs.
If Michigan loses tonight and MSU beats Iowa on Thursday, the Spartans can grab a share of the title with a win at Ohio State coupled with an Indiana upset at Crisler on Sunday. Wisconsin is also not out of it; in fact, with Purdue and @Nebraska left on their schedule, the path to sharing a title is easier for the Badgers than the Spartans. Regardless, any Michigan victory will secure the program's first outright Big Ten title since 1986, and they'll have to lose both remaining games for another scenario to come into play.
THE PREVIOUS MATCHUP
Didn't happen. Illinois is one of Michigan's single-plays this season, so this is the first and only matchup between the two in the regular season.
THE LINEUP CARD
I've done away with the SIBMIHHAT column, which caused nothing but confusion, and replaced it with each player's offensive rating, which is more informative anyway. The formula for calculating an individual's ORtg is too complicated to post here; Basketball-Reference has the rundown if you're curious. At minimum, just like with team offensive efficiency, you want to have an individual ORtg above 100. The best ORtg in the country among players using at least 20% of their team's possession is 131.8 (TJ Bray, Princeton); Nik Stauskas is 24th at 123.9.
Projected starters are in bold:
|G||13||Tracy Abrams||Jr.||6'2, 190||73.2||25.2||96.2|
|~3:2 assist-to-TO ratio, takes second-most shots on ILL, 38.6 eFG% (woof)|
|G||25||Kendrick Nunn||Fr.||6'3, 180||43.4||18.5||104.8|
|40% 3-pt shooter, bigger role in B1G play, 10/15 3-pt with 9 turnovers in last 3 games|
|G||24||Rayvonte Rice||Jr.||6'4, 235||81.5||26.2||107.9|
|Volume shooter, best at rim, middling jumper, good rebounder, top-200 steal rate|
|G||21||Malcolm Hill||Fr.||6'6, 210||31.9||20.7||99.3|
|Decent rebounder, gets to FT line well, 80% FT shooter, jumper work-in-progress|
|C||32||Nnanna Egwu||Jr.||6'11, 250||72.5||16.2||96.7|
|Top-60 block rate, excellent off. rebounder, low def. rebound #s, not a scorer|
|F||33||Jon Ekey||Sr.||6'7, 225||66.5||14.2||116.6|
|3-pt specialist hitting 35% beyond arc, good off. rebounder, tiny usage & TO rate|
|G||2||Joseph Bertrand||Sr.||6'6, 200||66.2||20.5||100.4|
|Diminishing role of late, shooting 46% from two and 31% from three in B1G play|
|G||1||Jaylon Tate||Fr.||6'3, 160||32.9||17.4||78.0|
|Gets spot minutes, TO-prone, shooting 36% on twos and 1/22(!!!) from three|
Three straight Illinois victories, capped by an upset at the Breslin Center (thanks, guys!), have lifted the Illini out of the Big Ten basement after winning just one of their previous 11 games. They've won with defense in this stretch, holding Minnesota, Nebraska, and MSU to a combined 0.84 points per possession; none of the games cracked 60 possessions.
While the Illini defense has been solid throughout the season, they have the worst-shooting offense in the conference on the other end, and a look through their lineup brings forth some awful numbers, like these: point guard Tracy Abrams, a decent passer and solid on-ball defender, takes nearly 24% of the team's shots when he's on the floor—he's shooting 38% from two and 27% from three.
The team's best offensive player is Rayvonte Rice, a bulldog of a guard—6'4", 235 pounds—who takes over a third of his shots at the rim, hitting them at a 62% clip, per hoop-math. He also gets to the line at a high rate, hits 72% of his free throws, and boasts an impressively low 11.2 TORate for a player that relies so much on creating off the dribble. He's not much of a shooter, however, making 29% of his two-point jumpers and 33% of his three-pointers. Rice is statistically the team's best defensive rebounder, which is impressive for him and much less so for the team.
Coach John Groce replaced two seniors, Joseph Bertrand and Jon Ekey, with freshmen Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill in the starting lineup six games ago; in that span, Illinois is 4-2, and the lineup is slated to remain the same tonight. Nunn takes nearly as many threes as twos and connects at a 40% rate from beyond the arc. Hill is holding his own as an undersized four, doing a decent job on the glass while making up for poor shooting from the field by getting to the charity stripe at a 54% rate and hitting 80% of his free throws. Ekey falls into the "just a shooter" category, which isn't too good when hitting just 35% from three, while Bertrand is a worse-rebounding, better-shooting version of Hill, and he gets to the line less often.
The starting center is 6'11" enigma Nnnanna Egwu, who still hasn't put it all together in his junior season. He's a great shot-blocker and solid offensive rebounder, but his 14.6 defensive rebounding percentage is alarmingly low for a center of his size. He boasts a solid mid-range jumper, but his post offense is so poor he's shooting just 44% on two-pointers. For some reason, he's attempted 23 three-pointers, of which he's hit five.
For better or worse, Illinois is stuck with Egwu at the five. Freshman backups Maverick Morgan and Austin Colbert play spot minutes, and while their finishing at the basket is well ahead of Egwu's, both players commit a lot of fouls while failing to provide Egwu's shot-blocking. Also, both are somehow worse on the defensive boards; Colbert's 7.2 DR% is the worst among any qualifying Illinois player—that's 1.1% lower than Spike Albrecht's rate.
Victories at Minnesota and Michigan State in the last couple weeks have bolstered an otherwise poor Illinois resume. Their other Big Ten wins either came at home (Indiana in OT, Nebraska) or at the expense of Penn State. The Illini's best non-conference win is either a two-point road win over #78 UNLV or a one-point neutral-site triumph against #60 Mizzou.
The Illinois defense ranks third in the conference in efficiency, and they've sparked the recent win streak by forcing a bunch of turnovers, as you can see in this chart from the Big Ten Geeks:
Relying on forcing turnovers, especially in the low-error Big Ten, tends to produce results of high variance; Illinois has been very good defensively in the last four games, but they've also been lit up by the likes of Wisconsin (1.34 ppp in Kohl), MSU (1.18 at Ill.), Iowa (1.14 at Ill.), and Wisconsin again (1.21 at Ill.)—aside from last weekend's game in East Lansing, Illinois has had a difficult time shutting down the conference's best offenses.
Offensively, they're not good: Illinois is dead last in the Big Ten in two-point shooting (40.9%) and tenth in three-point shooting (31.2%) while getting to the line at the league's second-worst rate. Scoring points is the goal of basketball, and it's rather difficult to do without putting the ball in the hoop. Not helping matters is their below-average rebounding. Add it all up and the only Big Ten team with a worse offense is Northwestern.
Play in control. Turnovers sparked the Illinois turnaround of late. Michigan boasts the league's second-lowest turnover rate. Taking care of the ball as the Wolverines usually do will go a long way towards winning this game; even though Illinois isn't great in transition, they still score more effectively on the break than they do in the halfcourt.
Exploit perimeter matchups. Illinois is going to have to defend either Nik Stauskas or Caris LeVert (probably the latter) with a player three inches shorter. Expect a healthy dose of high screens for whomever gets this matchup, especially given how willing John Beilein has been to let his stars rise and fire over shorter defenders whenever they get an opening.
Cool the hot hand. Kendrick Nunn is 10/15 on three-pointers in his last three games, all Illinois wins—Michigan can't afford to lose him on the perimeter in what should be a tight, low-possession affair. Nunn's also turned the ball over nine times in those three games, so dialing up the pressure should mitigate his effectiveness. He'll likely be Caris LeVert's responsibility, and while LeVert's quick hands should force some turnovers, his tendency to forget to challenge shots could come back to bite Michigan.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 1
(Yes, the projection changed by a point since last night, when I drafted this post. I'm doing the KenPom Appeasement Dance as I write this.)
According to LeVert, Illinois assistant coach Dustin Ford called him about a week after Groce took the Illinois job. He told LeVert that Groce would be reaching out shortly to discuss Illinois.
The call never came.
A few days later, on May 11, 2012, LeVert committed to Michigan during an official visit.
LeVert, of course, had been an Ohio commit when Groce was the head coach there before he took the Illinois job. Oops.
Jon Horford confirmed that he plans to return to the team for his fifth year. He graduates this spring.
Pat Forde goes in on John Calipari. Yes, you'll enjoy reading that.
Wait. You probably meant on the other guy.
That's some true Brian Cook vs. Brian Cook box out action
Why is Ric Flair holding tweety bird?
And have been very good at getting hands in passing lanes on skip passes. GRIII will hopefully be on game tonight, as he will get a fair number of looks in the high post between the zones, and I expect LeVert to as well. Michigan needs to be on point shooting from the outside tonight to stretch out the zone, and that should open up the rest.
Get into the bubble, force the defense to collapse, kick or dish to the big under the bucket, and the 2-3 zone isn't dangerous. Settle for early long shots, turnovers getting the ball inside (a problem that has come up with Walton this year, partially due to his height), and Michigan's often relaxed style of defense will lead to a nail biting game. Lets hope for the former.
"a problem that has come up with Walton this year, partially due to his height)"
When was the last time Michigan was good at getting the ball in the post. If there is any deficiency with Beilein's system, I think it might be entry passes and low-post offense. Which is why I'm still amazed that Mitch is at Michigan.
I'm curious how Brian reacted to Illinois having a player with his name. Did he find himself rooting for the other Brian Cook?
Also, some of the comments below the LeVert article from Illinois fans are hilarious, calling it a "hit piece" and such. Oh, the pain of losing such a quality player to your "archrival"...
When I first read the article I thought, "What a complete moron John Groce was to bail on LeVert". After thinking about it for a while, he may have wanted Levert to leave Ohio with him but didn't want to piss Ohio off even more than he already had. Just an alternative explanation.
Oh, so they're different guys. That makes much more sense. Based on the picture, I assumed that Brian is three years old and dead.
Oh boy. I coach basketball and our practice is tonight from 8-9pm. So I'm going to have to record it and watch when I get home making sure to not turn on the radio or talk to anybody about college hoops while at the gym. I've had to do that for three of the last four games (WIsconsin, MSU & Purdue) so i'm used to not watching it real time.
Pros: Killing commercials and making halftime go away
Cons: Resisting temptation to skip ahead when things go badly in the first 10 minutes of the game and not being able to join in on the board until way later in the night
Having two small children that tend to go to bed right in the middle of most MBB games, I have done the same quite often. Not joining in the live fanfare of the board is a small price to pay for missing all those commercials and halftime. I love it!
when due. He has exceeded my expectations. This year he lost his top gun and yet if he wins tonight he captures the B1G title outright. Quite an achievement! Go Blue!
How have you not been a Beilein fan.
What I meant to say is he is a better coach today than when he arrived. Please also note he made wholesale changes to his coaching staff about three years ago which resulted in immediate and better results.
Have you watched UM basketball the past few years?
Were the previous 2 seasons not enough for you? Is 3 banners in 3 years not enough?
Yea I'm not a Beilein fan either.
I don't like coaches who are teachers first, who play the game the right way, who run clean programs, who install a "next man up" mentality amongst his players, and who have won at every coaching stop he's ever been.
It's faily apparent that Michigan will be his last coaching stop. Phew. I can't handle anymore of this winning.
Agreed. I have just now decided Beilein is a pretty good coach.
I was expecting him to be going for a 7th NC this year.
#dissapointed #notafanofbeilein #notafanofreason #sarcasmifyouhaven'tcaughton #notsureifthisishowhashtagsworkbutifsothisisaverystupidthing #getoffmylawn
honestly what's not to like about Beilein? Tell me why he is not a good college basketball coach.
Me to. ITS TERRIBLE SHE HAS BEAUTIFUL EYES AND HER HAIR SMELLS LIKE CINNAMON.
Troll so hard mahfuckas wanna fine me
Wildly successful troll is wildly successful
Section 1 made a similar "I haven't been a Beilein fan but I'm coming around" point, so it's possible for a serious-seeming likely-human to say that kind of thing. It's damn crazy, but it's definitely possible he's serious.
Section 1 most definitely has some kind of personality disorder
Agreed. Personally, I haven't been a big fan of water, but I have to give it its due. It is sustaining life on earth after all. That's huge! Go water!
For instance unlike Amaker he has yet to win the Ivy League
I remember how he used to always drive me nuts by playing great against Michigan in his day, and then how ironic it was when I discovered this blog around the same time.
Weez gon' win.
Jaylon Tate is 1/22 from 3 so that means he will be 4/6 tonight, right?
It always seems that's how it goes. Of course not getting a hand up doesn't help the cause.
I was thinking the exact same thing.
would be my plan.
...6'11" enigma Nnnanna Egwu, who still...
The extra "n" is for extra... um... Not rebounding?
This explanation is good enough that I'm not going to fix the typo. He earned that fifth 'n'.
I have a terrible feeling we're going to have to beat Indiana to lock up the out-right title. Illinois is surging a bit and it's on the road. Even Kenpom only sees us as a 1-pt favorite which might as well say I dunno
I hope the boys realize the importance of locking up the outright title tonight. I do not want it to come down to Indiana next weekend. They would love to spoil our senior day again, and they will be playing for their tournament lives if they are able to beat Nebraska this week, even though I think Indy is a long shot not matter what. I will definitely be rooting for Nebraska to end any hope Indiana has left, that is unless we just take care of business tonight. In which case it don't matter no mo.
Kentucky fans and Calipari deserve each other. The last two seasons have exposed the fallacy in Calipari's "system" and his real coaching ability. Winning with mostly freshmen is extremely difficult to say the least, even if they're extremely talented. But, things like letting the players decide when they go in and out are head scratchers.
I'll be at the game tonight! For once I am happy I go to school in Central Illinois... Gonna be awesome to see the boys lock up a conference title in person!! GO BLUE
No share of the B1G title for Sparty!
Weird to think that the number one team is only a 2 point favorite over the 9th place team> I guess it is true that wins are hard to get in the BIG and parody is rampant this year with no elite teams.
Hate to be that guy, but parity. Actually, now that I think about it I like your way better.
We will win, but it will be a dogfight. As soon as I read "worst shooting team in the conference" I had a vision of them coming out and going crazy from behind the arc against us...just seems like that usually happens early against us...hoping it doesn't though! Go Blue!!
only because I always read it as "Simba Hat" in my head
Computer tard. Can anyone put up the video of (in the movie Major League) Tom Berringer when he says"I guess there is only one thing left to do, win the whole fing thing"?
Don't feel good about this road game. Hope I'm wrong...