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
Key Inury: Ayo Dosunmu is out with a broken nose
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. Without Dosunmu you might see Frazier carry the load.
- 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 57% 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. Potentially sees more minutes tonight with Dosunmu out
With Nebraska nearly pulling off the upset during their last meetup and Illinois coming off a loss at Michigan St, this would seeming be a highly motivated Illini team tonight. The matter is slightly complicated by the fact that leading scorer Ayo Dosunmu won't play tonight after having his nose broken late in East Lansing. Kofi Cockburn will be fed early and often and after that it's possible that Trent Frazier takes on the Dosunmu role of scorer-distributor, a role he had early in his career. Really, it could be anyone who goes off in this game which in some regards makes thing harder to game plan.
I think you see Illinois clamp down defensively tonight. If Nebraska can figure out a way to stay in this game, Dosunmu won't be able to take this one over.
Prediction: Illinois 76 - Nebraska 61