Illini Basketball Game Preview, Prediction at Northwestern Wildcats


Heading into Thursday’s LOL Hat (basketball version) game, the main story line is tickets, and their egregiously high prices. Northwestern adopted a fan unfriendly pricing structure for single game tickets this season, and the price increase, coupled with the home team’s historically bad performance on the court, has resulted in the worst attendance of the Chris Collins era.

On the other side of the court, you have an Illini basketball team that has far surpassed expectations this season. That is driving up demand, as is the fact that Illinois took a hiatus from playing at the United Center this season. They were right to abandon the UC game this year, because the “crowds” they have been drawing to the venue in recent years were embarrassingly small. So increased demand, lowered supply, it’s economics 101. Plus, you have NU trying to make as much money as they can off the home game most likely to draw the biggest crowd (even if it’s all almost blue and orange).

Bottom line: every ticket is in the low $100s and good seats are in the $200s.

Illini basketball at Northwestern Wildcats FYIs

Tip: 7pm, BTN

Tickets: see above

Odds: coming later

ESPN Basketball Power Index: Illini win 77.4% Northwestern win 22.6%

northwestern basketball

Illini Basketball  (18-9, 10-6 in Big Ten, Net #35, Polls RV, KenPom #20) Preview

Illinois took care of Nebrasketball last night in a tussle that was tight up until midway through the second half. It was much more tighter than expected, but they rode the Illini basketball big two of Ayo Dosnumu and Kofi Cockburn to victory. The dynamic duo certainly have some NBA Draft stock, but who is this team’s legitimate third piece?

One would have anticipated being Giorgi Bezhanishvili, who was arguably the team’s second or third best player last season. The forward has suffered a major sophomore slump however.

“I can’t explain it. …Sometimes the game’s evasive,” said Illini basketball coach Brad Underwood.

“It gets really hard. I don’t know why. All I know is to keep fighting, keep grinding and it will come back to you. You can’t wallow in that moment.”

In his last eight games, Giorgi is 12 for 50 from the floor; 11 for 43 from inside the three point line.

“It’s not because he’s not putting in time,” Underwood added.

“After shootaround, he put in 20 minutes shooting jump hooks. Got to find a way.”

This Illini basketball team was a bonafide league title contender up until a couple weeks ago. As it stands, they still have a NCAA Tournament profile befitting a #7 to #9 seed.

However, if they can find somebody to really step up and truly complete their “big three,” they might really have something here. Trent Frazier? Alan Griffin? Anyone?? Bueller? Bueller?

Northwestern Wildcats (6-20, 1-15 in Big Ten, Net #177, KenPom #132) Preview

The 2019-20 Northwestern basketball season is like your beloved family pet that is now in its late teens, lost his sight and hearing, and can’t control where he goes to the bathroom anymore- all you want to do is end the horrific suffering as soon and as easily as possible.

This NU season has been at this point since…the loss at home to Purdue?

That night we all realized that this team just will not and simply can not close games out. When another total collapse happened at Rutgers in the very next game, it was all way too predictable. After that result, you’re just like what’s really left to say anymore? What do they even have to play for the rest of the way?

northwestern basketball

They’re inevitably going to finish in the basement, just like last season and Chris Collins now has the kind of season on his resume that all of his predecessors, going all the way back to Harold Olsen (1950-52) had. He was the last Northwestern basketball coach not to have a conference season with a sub 30% winning percentage.

Bill Foster had an 0-18, Bill Carmody and Ricky Byrdsong had a 1-17, Kevin O’Neill had an 0-16, Rich Falk had three 2-16s, even Tex Winter went 3-11 one year. And that’s why Collins’ seat isn’t warming any time soon. Sure, the further we get away from the success of 2017 the more it looks kind of fluky, but again, look at the overall history of the program Collins inherited. That said, NU should get up for this one, as this is their Super Bowl every year.

Also, the Wildcats played the Illini extremely tough in the reverse fixture on Cubs Convention weekend. The Illini just simply could not put the Cats away until the very end.

Prediction: Illini basketball 69, Northwestern 52

It may not be pretty, but it should be decisive. NU will play hard, but their talent level just isn’t developing right now, and it can’t keep up with what Illinois has.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports, which is partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC and Chicago on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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