Illinois vs. #10 Wisconsin
TV: Big Ten Network
If you’re interested in seeing good basketball this evening, look away from whatever is happening at State Farm Center. That is rude, but undeniably true. It’s been 20 days since the Illini played what I’d term good basketball, in their win over Michigan at home, and since then have looked a mess even while beating Iowa. With Wisconsin, an undeniably good team, coming to town this evening, it’s hard to expect anything other than a one-sided beating.
About those Badgers, like every good Wisconsin team, they stifle opponents with excellent defense. Greg Gard’s squad is fifth in the nation in both points allowed and rebound margin, with an average of 60.6 points and 9.6 more rebounds, respectively; KenPom has them ranked 9th nationally for adjusted defense, with the small sample size warning no longer much of an issue. Bottom line, they shut teams down. But they also work it on offense. The trio of Ethan Happ, Bronson Koenig, and potential Big Ten player of the year Nigel Hayes each average a minimum 13.4 points and 2.1 assists per game, to which Happ and Hayes add excellent rebounding.
The Illini have truly been a different team at home versus on the road, 10-2 versus 0-5. The caveat here is the only really good team to visit Champaign this year has been Maryland, and they kept the home crowd quiet all night. College basketball is funny, and the Big Ten has been wildly erratic all year, leaving the possibility of an upset open. Wisconsin comes in as 6.5-point favorites as the visitor, though, so don’t bank on a big Illini win.
My prediction: There’s a new episode of Fixer Upper on HGTV this evening, it will be less offensive than the final score.