The Iowa Hawkeyes (14-8, 6-5) have lost five straight against the Illinois Fighting Illini (16-6, 7-4) with the last win dating back to February 2nd, 2020. Figures that every game since has felt like Groundhog Day with Iowa fighting to the end, sometimes having a lead, but not finishing it off for the win. Margins of 2, 5, 11, 4, & 2 belie the lopsided nature of the streak but to the victor go the spoils.
Adding to the context of the rivalry is this week’s news of Iowa’s ticket department revoking the Orange Krush’s block of tickets after Iowa uncovered they were not a Boys & Girls Club.
A statement from the Iowa Athletics Department regarding Saturday’s game vs Illinois: pic.twitter.com/8gzZmf87Ns— Iowa Men’s Basketball (@IowaHoops) February 2, 2023
Nothing more to editorialize here other than I think this is a non-issue if Illinois’ student section doesn’t come out with a self-congratulatory statement saying Iowa flat out cancelled the tickets which left them on the hook for $6k in bus deposits due to the late voiding of the tickets. They’re coming out fine.
Back to the hardwood...the Illini are on an absolute heater with seven wins in eight games by a margin of 16 points in those Ws. They’re tied for second in the conference with Rutgers after an 0-3 start in conference play. Their two most recent wins have been tepid performances, though, against Wisconsin & Nebraska where they were down at the roughly 11-minute-mark of the second half and turned on the jets in each game.
Frankly, this run is more of what I expected from them throughout the season. They’re a veteran group led by transfers Terrence Shannon, Jr, Matthew Mayer, Dain Dainja alongside the development of Coleman Hawkins & RJ Melendez. Freshmen Jayden Epps, Sencire Clark, & Ty Rodgers round out the rotation of what is, pound for pound, the most talented Big Ten roster in my estimation.
But talent does not equate fit or chemistry and the departure of another acclaimed freshman - Skyy Clark - looks like addition by subtraction as they’ve gone on that run in the immediate aftermath of him stepping away for personal reasons, noting that he needed to prioritize himself and his family’s wellbeing.
With the way they’re playing, the double-digit losses to Penn State, Missouri, and Northwestern look like things of the way past. If there were less than three games for them to make up for a run at the conference title, I’d think they’d have a shot.
As it stands, these Iowa will look to notch another huge victory for their tournament resume as well as achieve a tiebreaker over another team they figure to duke it out with for the double-bye. If Iowa, Indiana Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, and Northwestern win this weekend, it’d create an 8-team logjam at 7-5 for second place. 1%-ish chance per KenPom. Iowa’s record against six of the seven they’ve played is a stellar 6-1 at this juncture.
About the Fighting Illini
Season averages: Team / Opponent
PPG: 75.0 / 63.3
RPG: 38.9 / 33.0
APG: 13.5 / 10.7
TOPG: 13.4 / 14.3
FG%: 45.3% / 39.8%
3P%: 31.7% / 32.1%
Brad Underwood: 6th season at Illinois, 10th overall
Record: 110-72 (.604) at Illinois, 219-99 (.689) overall
PPG: Terrence Shannon 17.2, Matthew Mayer 11.5
RPG: Coleman Hawkins 6.4 (1.9 ORPG), Dain Dainja 5.9 (2.2 ORPG)
APG: Hawkins 3.3, Shannon 3.1
FG%: Dainja 68.7%, Ty Rodgers 48.9%
3P%: Mayer 36.7%, Jayden Epps 34.1%
G - #3 Jayden Epps, Fr, 6’2”, 190 lbs: 9.8 PPG, 1.6 APG, 43.1% FG, 34.1% 3P, 25.7 MPG
G - #0 Terrence Shannon Jr., Sr, 6’6”, 225 lbs: 17.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.4 SPG, 44.3% FG, 32.2% 3P, 31.5 MPG
G/F - #24 Matthew Mayer, Fifth Year, 6’9”, 225 lbs: 11.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 42.1% FG, 36.7% 3P, 23.9 MPG
F - #33 Coleman Hawkins, Jr, 6’10”, 225 lbs: 9.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.2 BPG, 43.9% FG, 29.5% 3P, 31.0 MPG
F - #42 Dain Dainja, RS So, 6’9”, 270 lbs: 9.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 68.7% FG, 49.2% FT, 20.4 MPG
Last 5 games:
W - v Nebraska, 72-56 (1/31)
W - at Wisconsin, 61-51 (1/28)
W - v Ohio State, 69-60 (1/24)
L - v Indiana, 80-65 (1/19)
W - at Minnesota, 78-60 (1/16)
2023 KenPom: ($)
AdjEfficiency: +18.51 (22)
AdjOffense: 111.7 (58)
AdjDefense: 93.2 (15)
AdjTempo: 69.3 (65)
AdjEfficiency: +18.75 (20)
AdjOffense: 1112.0 (30)
AdjDefense: 93.3 (29)
AdjTempo: 67.2 (179)
Bart Torvik: 37
Evan Miyakawa: 19