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Iowa goes back to Champaign, where it hasn’t lost since 2012

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa basketball team had about a week to lick its wounds following the gutpunch loss to Maryland as it travels to Champaign tonight, a place where the Hawkeyes haven’t lost a game since the 2011-12 season. That streak of good fortune could very well end tonight, however, as Illinois is playing its best basketball of the year at the State Farm Center, where they’re 9-2.

If you don’t know anything else about the Illini this year ... well they’re not great. Illinois is in 12th place in the conference, with wins over Ohio State and Michigan. Too bad this isn’t football, Illinois.

The Illini are on a three-game skid too, so they will likely be hungry for a win against this curious Iowa team. As good as Illinois is at home, it is just as bad away; where its gone 1-6 overall and 0-4 in the conference. But if this season has taught us anything so far it’s that no conference wins will come easy for the Hawkeyes.

Get to know the Illini

There’s pretty much two guys you need to know on this Illinois squad: Malcom Hill and Maverick Morgan. Hill is averaging just under 18 a game while shooting around 45 percent from the field, while Morgan is a more-than-serviceable center, scoring 10 a night while making 60 percent of his shots. Coupled with Leron Black, who’s averaging 9 points and 6 boards, those two make up the entirety of the paint presence for Illinois while Hill is running the point.

Much like the Hawkeyes, this Illinois team is B-A-D on defense. According to KenPom, Illinois is sixth-worst in opponent offensive efficiency. That’s not very good.

The Illini were outscored by an average of 13 points over their last three games, including a 23-point drubbing at the hands of Purdue. Iowa has shown it can score points, and will have more than enough opportunities to feast.

What Iowa has to do to win

Let’s hope Peter Jok and Cordell Pemsl have taken this time to rest up and return to their normal selves. It would really be a shame if whatever is ailing Jok would turn in to a season-long thing.

Same goes for Dom Uhl. Fran alluded that he might have been able to go against Maryland but erred on the side of the caution there. Uhl was off to a pretty slow start to the season, but provided a good spark off the bench for Iowa over the last couple games.

It’ll be interesting to see how Iowa chooses to approach defending Malcom Hill as he’s arguably the best guard they’ll have seen all year. Outside of Hill, I don’t see anyone giving Iowa much of a problem. Tyler Cook and Pemsl will be tested by Maverick Morgan and Leron Black, but I think Iowa’s bench is just too deep for Illinois to keep up.

Nothing to say for Iowa’s recent successes in Champaign, but this is the most confident I’ve felt for Iowa all year. Which means we will almost certainly lose.

Now that that’s out of the way, I just think the ball of yarn has completely unraveled on John Groce at Illinois, and things just aren’t going to work out for him. Iowa, on the other hand, is on the up—all the negative attention surrounding Fran be damned. I think there’s too many factors working in favor for the Hawkeyes, while the inverse is true for the Illini. The Computer in Mom’s Basement foresees a win for the Hawkeyes, and so does this blogger with a keyboard.

Prediction: Iowa 88, Illinois 70.