Illinois at Northwestern
TV: Big Ten Network
The Illini basketball team’s Twitter account took to bragging today about the team’s lead in the all time series against Northwestern, 132-40, as well as at Welsh-Ryan, 61-26. What went unmentioned was the fact Illinois has won just 5 of 11 against the Wildcats since 2010 (2-2 at home, 3-4 in Evanston). This went unmentioned because you need some good spin when your recent record against a team that has never made the NCAA Tourney is below .500.
Improving upon that record will be a tall task, as Northwestern (18-5, 7-3) is a very good team this year. The Wildcats may have dropped out of the top 25 after making their first ever appearance, but they have shown they belong among the nation’s best. The reason they belong is their defense. Opponents are scoring just 64 points against Northwestern (34th best nationally), making just 38.7% of all field goals (11th best nationally), and the Wildcats are maintaining a 1.57 assist-to-turnover ratio (385:245, 5th best nationally). This has made the Wildcats much better than just the sum of their best players, Scottie Lindsay, Vic Law, and Bryant McIntosh: it’s made them a cohesive unit that can guard the ball like crazy.
Last time out, at home (where the Illini are much, much better than on the road), Illinois shot just .381 against a Minnesota team that has allowed Big Ten teams to shoot an average of .425. That should just about do it for what you need to know before the Northwestern game. Unless Illinois finds Michael’s Secret Stuff laying around, this could get ugly.
My prediction: Nothing matters. Betsy DeVos is education secretary, so in two years’ time all public schools will be bankrupt, including universities.