Location: Champaign, IL
Nickname: Fightin Illini
Chief Illiniwek They got rid of Chief Illiniwek in 2007
Line: Illinois by 14.5
Typical Rotation Depth: 8-9
KenPom rank: 6
Players to watch: Ayo Dosunmu
The NBA prospect came back to Illinois for his junior year and has turned up his production while remaining the focal point of the offense. The 3 level scorer is shooting over 40% from 3 this year and leads the team in scoring and assists.
Players to watch: Kofi Cockburn
How can you not watch this throwback center who clocks in at 7'0" 285#? Averages a double-double and leads the team in blocks. Generates a lot of contact so Nebraska's centers will be wise to either foul hard or just get off the tracks when Cockburn has the ball deep in the paint. Cockburn isn't much of a threat to pass so look for Nebraska to bring the house when he touches the ball.
This team is shooting nearly 40% from 3 as Dosunmu and Cockburn generate lots of open looks for teammates
- Frazier has moved to a secondary scorer with this team but can still drop 20 in a game if needed
- 2020 Mr Illinois Adam Miller living up to the hype, starting day one for this Final 4 contender
- Holy Cross transfer Jacob Grandison has worked his way into the starting lineup since conference play, brings length and 3pt shooting
- Da'Monte Williams doesn't shoot much, but they're going in when he does. Shooting a remarkable 59% from 3 this year.
- Giorgi Bezhanishvili functions as Cockburn's backup.
- Freshman Andre Curbelo is a pure point guard and a guy who you can see just knows how to play. Should have a bounce back game after playing a clunker vs Wisconsin that got him benched in the 2nd half.
The way that Nebraska's schedule works the postgame presser and pre-game presser for the next game are the same presser.
The big takeaway is that Hoiberg is tired of the turnovers to the point where he was talking about slowing down the offense, something that he never wants to do. We'll see.
This Illinois team is stacked with enough talent to win the national championship. They're also inconsistent enough at points to get knocked out in the first round. Either way Brad Underwood is for real and has tapped into the talent pipeline from Chicago. The Illini should be good for the foreseeable future.
Defensively Nebraska has done well since their return but that's been against teams struggling with their shot. This Illinois team is poised to absolutely torch the Huskers from deep should they pay too much attention to Cockburn. If Nebraska looks competent tonight guarding the Illini, there is a chance they will win a game in 2021.
Is Nebraska going to slow things down and when? They get off to fast starts and then wobble out of control. Do you risk messing with the starts? Does this team who veers off script just veer off script anyway? Turnovers are absolutely crucial in this matchup where Illinois will likely dominate the boards on both ends. Nebraska doesn't shoot well enough to overcome empty possessions.
If Illinois shows up tonight, this could be quite the drubbing. How motivated is a team that just beat Wisconsin by 15?
Prediction: Illinois 78 - Nebraska 63