In a Big Ten full of inconsistent teams, Illinois has been one of the most inconsistent. Nice wins over VCU, NC State, Michigan and Ohio State have been mitigated by disappointing losses to Winthrop, Maryland (twice) and Indiana. At 13-8 overall (3-5 Big Ten) and with an RPI of #43 , the Illini currently sit on the dark side of the Big Ten bubble. Nevertheless, the season is far from complete and the Illini have a path to the postseason if they can shore up several of their lingering issues over the last five weeks. Without question, John Groce‘s team needs to protect home court, but the next three games in particular — at Penn State today; then, home against Wisconsin and Minnesota — are crucial. The following are three important factors which could determine Illinois’ fate over the next eight days.
- Malcolm Hill needs to be more assertive. Hill’s generally passive nature results in too few shot attempts over the course of a game. While sharing the offensive load with Kendrick Nunn last season, he was averaging 12.9 attempts per game. He is down to only 12.3 attempts per game this season. As a high-usage, high-efficiency player (116.3 ORtg), his goal should be to take at least 15 quality shots every time out in the next three games. Better offensive assertiveness on his part will correspondingly also open up looks for teammates Michael Finke (41.4% 3FG) and Jalen Coleman-Lands (35.8% 3FG) from behind the arc. Read the rest of this entry »