If you're wondering what Illini fans are thinking about their game at Wisconsin tonight, just check out the lead in the Hail to the Orange game preview:
The Illini are going to lose this game. I have prepared myself for it.
Sure the Illini are on a four-game winning streak and just beat Michigan State at home Saturday night, but forgive me for not really caring about that. The first three wins on the current streak came against Penn State, Indiana and Iowa -- the conference's three bottomfeeders. The Spartans were playing without Kalin Lucas and quite frankly, the Illini should have beaten Wisconsin's sloppy seconds.
Before the current winning streak, Illinois lost three straight to Michigan State, Purdue and Northwestern. The Illini have yet to beat a +.500 Big Ten team on the road. Is that going to happen tonight in Madison where the Badgers are on an 18-game home winning streak? Where the Badgers have beat three Top Five teams this season? Where Bo Ryan is 8000-10 in his career?
It's simple. Wisconsin plays defense, Illinois does not.
Like Joe from Hail to the Orange said: The Illini are going to lose this game.
Keys to the Game
- Play big defensively. Illinois is one of the rare big teams in the Big Ten. The Illini will play four guys taller than Keaton Nankivil tonight, two of which average double figures in points. It will be a different defensive challenge than the Badgers are used to.
- Rebound, rebound, rebound. The Illini might be big, but Bill Cole and Tyler Griffey are two 6-9 starters who only average just under four points a game. Of bigger concern is rebounding, which UW will have to do to control the game on its home court.
- If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Keaton Nankivil and Jordan Taylor flipped a switch when UW was losing to Penn State at home Jan. 23 and the UW offense hasn't looked back since. What they have done without Jon Leuer has been very impressive and it involves Trevon Hughes taking a few less shots and getting his teammates involved. It's working, so keep it going.
Wisconsin 63, Illinois 52