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I know I do that thing where I get fixated on something and you all want to tell me "we get it, Robert" and then I just keep saying it, but I just can't get over the Minnesota student section chanting "over-rated" (clap clap clapclapclap) in the first half when Kofi was at the free throw line.
I know that sometimes it's just one student who starts the chant, and everyone else immediately joins in, and then people realize what they're saying and they're all "wait, do we really want to be saying this?". But this one was definitely a repeated chant. Came in the first half when Kofi was at the line. Here's what I tweeted:
Minnesota student section decided to go with the “over-rated” chant for Kofi.— Robert Rosenthal (@ALionEye) January 5, 2022
We shall see.
It was one of the bigger "REALLY?" moments I can recall inside a Big Ten arena. Part of me was "you guys realize he's going to get a double-double and you'll be known as the student section who chanted 'over-rated' during a game where he dominated you, right?", and the other part is "you really want to poke the bear here?".
Final stat line for Kofi: 29 points, 10 boards, 4 blocks, 2 assists, 2 steals in 24 minutes.
Earlier today I was looking for something I wrote last year. While scanning through several articles from January and February I saw a common theme to what I was writing: we just don't know how lucky we are to have Ayo. So how crazy is it to have that feeling two years in a row? Kofi was absolutely dominant tonight. Minnesota didn't have a single answer for him. And the game was over quickly.
After I left The Barn I was standing outside waiting for my Uber when a Minnesota player walked right past me talking to someone. Your intrepid reporter on the scene will now report what he was saying as he walked past me: "They shoot the ball so well we couldn't really double or triple team him every time". Son, you just hit the nail in the correct location. That's the puzzle teams will need to solve.
Tonight, it was "don't let them hit a ton of threes". And I got texts from no less than four different people during/after the game all saying nearly the same thing: so great to win in a blowout during a game where we only hit six three pointers. If we can maintain this, we'll be the Pick Your Poison Illini (doesn't exactly roll off the tongue like Flyin' Illini). As Tyler just said in a text to me, Minnesota chose Death By Kofi.
And in a Death By Kofi game, the Minnesota student section actually chanted "over-rated".
+ I needed to fan tonight so I was sitting in the upper deck with my friend Dave (you can see our view from that pic up there at the top). And as the game progressed, I kept saying the same thing to Dave over and over and over: "we'll let them take that shot all day". Minnesota played 1992 basketball tonight. I just couldn't get over how many 17' jumpers they took.
So I was anxiously awaiting the shot chart from the game. And when flipping through the stats looking for it, I found this chart which probably tells the story even better.
To generalize here, basketball has moved to a game of threes and layups. The ideal shot chart (in theory) would be a bunch of shots from three and a bunch of shots at the rim. If you're gonna shoot an 18-footer, it's much better to shoot a three from two feet further out because you get more points. There's a lot more to the debate but... you understand what I'm saying.
So let's just add up the shots in those "two point jumper" areas. Right wing, left wing, and inside the key.
Crazy. At the places where you want your shots (at the rim and from behind the three point line), Illinois took 37 shots and Minnesota took 23. At the place where your only option is a jump shot from 15-22 feet (inside the key above the free throw line), Minnesota took 11 shots and Illinois 1.
I know there's a lot more to that debate, and that a wide open jumper from 16 is better than a contested three from 22. But this entire game I kept saying the same thing over and over: "Their four-man wants to shoot a jumper from 17 feet? Go ahead. You can do this every time down. we won't even guard you. One free jumper from 17 feet every single time down the court."
One more thing from that chart:
Minnesota: 9 shots at the rim, made 5.
Illinois: 23 shots at the rim, made 16.
Minnesota had no chance.
+ Da'Monte Williams and Jacob Grandison are the "do all the little things" players of our dreams. Can a team have two Glue Guys? Because we have two Glue Guys. Here's the stat lines from the Glue Twins tonight:
Da'Monte Williams: 9 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists
Jacob Grandison: 11 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists
Together they hit 5 of 6 threes and sweartogod captured every single loose ball on the floor. I mean, is this the gluiest glue guy play of all time?
Glue Twins forever.
+ So now we're 3-0 in the Big Ten with two road wins. We're up to #11 on KenPom as of this moment (just before midnight). Next up we have KenPom #58 at home (Maryland) and KenPom #141 on the road (Nebraska) before Michigan-Purdue weekend. And Michigan is now 7-6 (1-2 in the B1G) after losing at Rutgers. Also, Michigan lost to this Minnesota team by 10. In Ann Arbor.
Which means there's a decent chance we're 6-0 in the Big Ten when Purdue comes to town on MLKJr Day. Big game, that. After that, spaced around road games at Maryland and Northwestern, we get both Michigan State and Wisconsin coming to Champaign. Do you smell that? Opportunity.
Kofi is now averaging 22.5 ppg and 11.9 rpg while shooting 60.9% from the field and 70.4% from the free throw line. Plummer is shooting 43.3% from three and Grandison 52.8%. We just beat Missouri by 25 and Minnesota by 23. Oh, and we might get Andre Curbelo back soon.