Illinois-Minnesota Preview


Illinois fans rush the court after the game  Demetri McCamey

By Paul M. Banks and Mike Gallagher

(MG) Welcome Paul, to what I believe is the biggest game of the year for both these teams.

Firstly looking at Minnesota, I believe this game carries more weight than the Purdue contest did in a situational sense.  Obviously, if the Gophers could have beat Purdue, they’d be right in the thick of the bubble discussion, but with another heartbreaking one point loss at home to a ranked opponent (see also: Michigan State), they are left in a desperate situation.

Since Illinois is a fellow bubble team, it seems that if the Gophers could win, the distance between the two narrows and the Gophers stay relevant.  As far as the Gophers go, do you think the loss to Purdue doomed them since the committee doesn’t really take into account close losses, or do you think a win today could get them back in the discussion?

(PMB) I don’t mean to be a negative Ned but I think the loss at Northwestern put the Gophers on life support, and the home loss to Purdue (the last chance for a big signature win to improve RPI) effectively pulled the plug. I do agree this game is huge. So huge that I wish “the streak” was still alive. You know the 20+ game Illinois over Minnesota stretch from 1999-2009. Alas, it is not.

(MG) From Illinois’ perspective, they’re in much better shape than the Gophers, seeming to be a legitimate tournament team with their strong conference record and road record.  I have them in, but others seem to think they’re walking a thin line between NCAA and NIT tournaments.

Obviously, a loss for Illinois today would hurt, having to go to Ohio State and then coming home for Wisconsin to end their regular season.  How much does Illinois need this game and if they do lose, with a loss to Ohio State likely coming after that, can they salvage their season with a win over Wisconsin?

If so, as this question becomes increasingly more loaded, what must be done in the Big Ten Tournament to get them in?

(PMB) I look at it this way- get twelve wins in conference (either by 11 in the conference season + one in the Indianapolis) or finish the year 12-6, and not have to sweat in Indy at all. So…..tomorrow is huge, because if Illinois wins, it’s just a matter of finishing 1-2 or better before the postseason begins. Of course, this is the 2009-10 Illini who are the college basketball equivalent of hitting on the girl who is at the bar alone pounding shots by herself- you know something unpredictable is going to happen- whether that’s unpredictably good or unpredictably bad..who knows.

(MG) Looking deeper at this game, Ralph Sampson III has strung together three double figure games in a row, and is finally starting to show progress as a legitimate inside threat on the offensive end to go along with his defensive prowess.  His emergence the last few games has really opened up the offense and having an inside presence would make this team dangerous going forward and into next year.

On the other side of the coin, Mike Tisdale has followed up his solid sophomore season with an even better junior campaign.  His presence inside has obviously opened up Demetri McCamey and D.J. Richardson to become legitimate backcourt scoring threats making this a very complete team.  Do you feel the Tisdale-Sampson matchup is the one to watch today, and if not, where do you think the emphasis will lie and what will the turning point be in this game?

(PMB) I’d like to see Tisdale bang more down low, I don’t like him hanging out near the elbow and the top of the key all the time. Granted it has been working well with those pick and pops he does all the freaking time with McCamey, but there’s only so far that can go I think.

My key is Mike Davis. He gets a double-double Illinois wins easily, if he struggles to provide any offense, then anything can happen. Minnesota might stop him, or he might stop himself; depending on where his head’s at.

(MG) Since Al Nolen has been suspended, the Gophers have gotten exposed on the defensive end at the point guard position.  Granted, this is a point guard heavy conference and there is a lot of talent, especially on the offensive end, at the position.  McCamey being one of the best in the league at picking apart a defense, and the Gophers poor road record, does Minnesota stand much of a chance in this contest?

(PMB) It depends on how McCamey is able to take over: by distributing, or by scoring. I kind of like Illinois’ chances a lot more if it’s the former- not the latter. Damn right it’s loaded with PGs! You can easily make an all-conference first team composed strictly of guys how play the one.

(MG) Since their bad non-conference losses to Utah, Bradley, and Georgia in the non-conference portion of the year, Illinois hasn’t really had a bad setback (at NW questionably).  Do you think this team has turned the corner and is really gelling at the right time of the year?

(PMB) Ask me this question again after the game. The again after Ohio State. The again after Wisconsin. Hell, given what they do on the court, it’s easy to change your mind at least 6 times in the course of one game: see barely escaping home wins over Indiana and Penn State


  1. Wowww that last 3 felt like a dagger. Although this Illini team is EXTREMELY erratic and streaky

  2. very entertaining analysis, gentlemen, looking forward to your insight during th tournaments…

Speak Your Mind