Fighting Illini Basketball Preview: Runnin' with the Rebels
Proper respect goes to any of you who managed to make it through the video below all the way without fast forwarding or cursing. What possible good could there be in posting this painful video? Well to remind Illinois fans of a few simple and uncomfortable facts. The Illini lost last year to their little brother, UIC, in no less than the United Center, in no less than Chicago, Illinois, and couldn't have looked worse doing it.
That was the second consecutive game they had lost in the United Center. It was also very sparsely attended. I was there though, I made the trek up there in the middle of a blizzard to watch, I had hoped, Illinois take back the city that once loved it so much. What I got was a guy named Robo Krebs sink 4 three pointers and Illinois cough away what should have been a no problem victory.
The reason that I am making all of you relive that disappointment is to remind you of how important this game, and every game, played in Chicago is.
UNLV just so happens to be a team that the Illini managed to beat on a neutral floor last season, although the biggest reasons for that win, Mike Davis and Demetri McCamey, are no longer in Champaign.
This Illinois team is ranked, but unproven. Talented but raw. And plays a much different game than the 2010/11 Illini. UNLV, though it has two losses to its name already, also owns a win over the then No.1 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels.
Meyers Leonard will have another opportunity to show off why people are already saying he has the makings of a lottery pick. While the hot three point shooting of the Badgers was what ran the Rebels out of Madison, Meyers could provide the back to the basket offense that this team could lean on, while the defense at the guard position holds the Rebs back enough for a victory.
They are going to double Meyers, anyone who saw the St Bonaventure game will at least try it from now on. But so long as Meyers can find the open man that that defense creates, the Illini will probably have plenty of open shots to take.
Because of the level of opponent, as well as the upcoming game against Mizzou, this will probably be a big pull back in how much Bruce has used the bench. Against Coppin State, a very comfortable lead slowly melted away as Bruce left freshmen and otherwise unseasoned players get extended minutes. With DJ Richardson, Brandon Paul and Meyers Leonard back on the floor, it ballooned back up to 17. We probably wont enjoy the same advantage over UNLV, so I doubt players like Myke Henry, or Mike Shaw or even Tracy Abrams will have nearly as many minutes as they have had to this point.
There really aren't any cupcakes left on this schedule, and from here on out I think we are going to see the white knuckle coaching strategy we have come to know these past three years.
No matter how though, Illinois needs to win this game. For the fanbase, for recruiting, and for their coach. We need to get the Windy City back on our side.
79.0 F (26.1 C)
Pressure : 1013.1 mb
Humidity : 56 %
Wind : South at 9.2 MPH (8 KT)
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