Smile Politely

Illinois-South Dakota preview

South Dakota (7-4)
: 0-0
Tip-off: Saturday at 2 p.m.

Earlier this week, John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black’s injury is, uh, not so good. Instead of being day-to-day, Black is out indefinitely. The injury, for those who forgot, was a torn meniscus he had surgically repaired shortly before the season. The big man returned quickly, maybe quicker than he should have, apparently, because now he’ll be riding the pine alongside center Mike Thorne Jr., who also tore his meniscus and is out indefinitely.

This is not good for Illinois. The team’s whole front court consists of a guy who would struggle to get minutes at a lesser school (Maverick Morgan) and a more-talented option playing just his first season in college (Michael Finke). On Saturday maybe it won’t be such a big deal, as South Dakota’s top rebounders are all guards and none stand taller than 6’5”.

The Coyotes, overall, are a smaller team, but they know how to shoot; this season they’re averaging about 79 points a game and 48% overall on field goals. Even though South Dakota is giving up 78 points a game, their shooting is worrisome. Illinois let UIC shoot better than 40% from three, which no team previously had allowed to happen this season. If the Coyotes get hot, well, Illinois could be in trouble.

BUT, this game should be cheap as hell for anyone who wants to go. The box office is offering 4 tickets and $20 in concessions for $60 and Stub Hub has got a lot of $6 options. Of course, the new fascist ushers won’t let you move around the stadium much, but there’s probably not much else going on Saturday at 2–which has quickly become the best reason to watch Illini basketball this season.

Projected lineups

South Dakota: Tre Burnette, guard; DJ Davis, guard; Shy McClelland, guard; Casey Kasperbauer, forward; Eric Robertson, forward

Illinois: Jaylon Tate, guard; Kendrick Nunn, guard; Aaron Jordan, guard; Malcolm Hill, guard/forward; Michael Finke, forward

Bold prediction

There are going to be a lot of empty chairs at State Farm Center on Saturday. Illinois brought just over 5,000 out to its last game in Chicago, and I think the Champaign crowd will be better, but I don’t think it will be that much better. This is another game without traditional TV coverage, too, so most of CU might not even know this happened.

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