Death From Above: At Illinois

Death From Above: At Illinois

Submitted by Brian on March 1st, 2012 at 12:40 PM

webere-claps[1]THE ESSENTIALS

WHAT Michigan at Illinois
WHERE Yet Another Assembly Hall
Champaign, IL
WHEN 7 PM Eastern, Today
LINE M –1 (Kenpom)
TV ESPN

 

THE THEM

 

Illinois was previewed before Michigan's 70-61 win in Crisler a couple weeks ago. The Illini were in the midst of a tailspin having lost five of six, but had no idea how bad it was going to get. They lost convincingly in Ann Arbor and at home against Purdue before consecutive road blowouts against Nebraska(!!!) and Ohio State saw them plunge off the bubble and all but end Bruce Weber's Illini career.

Not much has changed in the four games since these two teams met: Illinois remains a team with three quality offensive players and total hot garbage behind them. Brandon Paul and Meyers Leonard are the primary shot creators.

Leonard is a 7'1" shot-blocker who shoots 60% from the floor with good usage. In the first matchup Illinois ominously fed Leonard for the first few minutes until Matt Vogrich took a charge for Leonard's second foul. He went to the bench for the rest of the half; by the time he returned in the second his teammates had forgotten all about him. After drawing a bunch of e-derps for crying on the bench in the midst of the Nebraska(!!!) blowout, Leonard flirted with the bench despite the total uselessness of his backup. Unfortunately for Michigan, his last outing was a monster (22 points on 13 shots, 14 rebounds, six of them offensive) and may find him back on track in the friendly confines of Yet Another Assembly Hall. After what happened in Crisler you know Illinois will be emphasizing feeding Leonard at all costs.

Paul is Paul, a fantastic athlete and mediocre shooter who is often saddled with the "oh crap there's five seconds on the shot clock" offense. He tries to do too much because he has to. He totally destroyed Ohio State that one game.

Third banana DJ Richardson is mired in a Hardaway-like slump in which he's not making many threes but by God he's shooting him. Over his past five games he's 7 of 33 from three. This has sunk his three point shooting to 28% in conference play—sound familiar?

You'll be pleased to know that 6'8" shooter Tyler Griffey has faded into the background after singlehandedly keeping Illinois in the first matchup. He hasn't scored more than a handful of points in any subsequent game and is struggling to see more than 10-15 minutes in most games. Completely horrible point guard Tracy Abrams did blow up for 22 against Purdue and had an efficient game against Nebraska but has since settled back into his usual offensive inability.

THE RESUME

This was mostly covered above. Illinois has lost 9 of their last 11 Big Ten games but did beat Iowa by 11 in their last outing.

THE STUPID-LOOKING BRUCE WEBER PICTURES

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64275_Illinois_Maryland_Basketball[1]Bruce Weber Gonzaga v Illinois 1TLYHQaOoBOl[1]

We should get them in while we can.

THE TEMPO-FREE

Conference four factors:

Factor Offense (Rk) Defense (Rk) Avg
Effective FG%: 49.3 8 52.1 8 49
Turnover %: 21.7 11 19.5 5 20.8
Off. Reb. %: 29.0 9 29.7 5 32.5
FTA/FGA: 31.9 8 36.7 10 36.5

As before, Illinois is an inexplicable debacle on offense and mediocre defensively. They're 11th in the conference at shooting threes at 30 percent and dead last in opponent three-point percentage (though that might be random) at 40%. They do shoot well on twos and prevent opponents from taking a lot of threes.

THE PROTIPS

Collapse collapse collapse. Collapse like Mesa Verde circa 1300 AD. Illinois' best shots all come from Leonard and Illinois can't shoot threes to save their lives right now. The previous edition of this preview said "watch out for DJ Richardson from deep"; now he's Hardaway. Double Leonard all day and twice on Tuesday.

Zone zone zone. Zone zone zone. Part of Michigan's fantastic ability to deny Leonard the ball in the second half of the first matchup was extensive use of a 2-3 zone. Again, you can take your chances with Illinois shooting from deep. Unleash the zone kraken!

Obligatory Hardaway section. Is obligatory.

Switch everything not Leonard-based on the perimeter. Remove driving lanes by doing this; if it encourages someone on Illinois to go isolation on a mismatch I think that's a bonus even if it's Paul. Paul is not an efficient offensive player for a lot of reasons.

Exploit the confusion and depression and disunity. I'm nervous that Illinois comes out annoyingly rejuvenated; I assume Illinois fans are nervous that Illinois comes out like they have for most of the season. I'm guessing Michigan gets their fair share of easy layups because Illinois is just not in the game. This could be a totally wrong thing to think.

Let Novak and Douglass get more aggressive with the ball earlier in the shot clock. It would be nice to take some of the pressure off Burke; with both of those guys proving they can create shots of late, Michigan should show the ball screen and then try to use the space it creates by pulling Leonard out of the lane to get Douglass and Novak drives to the basket for either insane heistation layups (Douglass); high-percentage pull ups (Novak) or kick outs for open shots.

More Leonard foul trouble please. It would be nice.

THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES

Michigan by one. Sippin On Purple's Rodger Sherman rises from the grave to rend his garments and screams about Michigan's luck in close games to the heavens.

Elsewhere

UMHoops preview. Holdin' the Rope as well. Four things from Baumgardner. Carlton Brundidge dismisses transfer speculation. McGary dismisses NBA speculation:

McGary said he isn't remotely ready for the NBA and is looking forward to playing at Michigan with Glenn Robinson III, an Indiana high school teammate at Ann Arbor and the son of former NBA star Glenn Robinson. Sampson said he is grateful for his two years at Brewster, adding, "I think if I had gone to St. John's and never come here, I would not be nearly as well off as I am now."

Let's go Buckeyes. It's playoff time for Michigan's recruits.