So, How We Doin'? Rutgers

Feb 16, 2022

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Here's a mistake I always make when I'm in a groove with predictions: I find myself reading Illini thoughts on Twitter (or even text threads) and I get all "no no no no NO!" about something. And then I write one of these preview posts based on those emotions. The general theme I see everywhere: "Rutgers is so dangerous!". My feeling: are they?

Yes, they are dangerous at home, and that's why this game is scary. They have beaten Purdue, Michigan, Iowa, Michigan State, and Ohio State at home. Impressive.

They also just went through a stretch (only a few weeks ago!) where they lost at Minnesota, then lost at home to Maryland, then beat Nebraska by two, and then lost at Northwestern. It seems that every Illini fan I encounter is only considering "beat Purdue, Michigan State, and Ohio State" Rutgers, not "lost to Penn State, Minnesota, Maryland, and Northwestern" Rutgers. They're both teams.

They're also the team that lost three in a row in November (I'll use current KenPom rankings for these). They lost at #103 DePaul, then lost to #319 Lafayette at home (that's 8-16 Lafayette who just lost to Colgate to fall to 5-8 in the Patriot League), and then lost at #182 UMass. I know, I get it - teams improve. The Illinois team that lost to Cincinnati by 20 is gone and the Illinois team that is 11-3 in the Big Ten has arrived. I understand that teams are likely much better on February 15th than they were on November 27th.

But this is still a team we beat by 35 in Champaign. Geo Baker did not play in that game, and he's back now (and also the Big Ten Player of the Week), so yes, February Rutgers is more dangerous than December Rutgers. And we're playing at their place where they're 12-2 this season. But still - Illinois 86, Rutgers 51. Can Geo Baker + Jersey Mike's Arena make up 35 points?

Their NET team sheet is one of the crazier team sheets I've seen. Check this out:

5-3 in Quad 1 (!!!) but 2-3 in Quad 2 and somehow 2-2 in Quad 3. AND they have a Quad 4 loss. I'm guessing Nebraska might have a Quad 4 loss, but I doubt any other Big Ten team would have a Q4 loss. Let me go look this up.

As I suspected, Nebraska is the only other Big Ten team with a Quad 4 loss. And they only have one (they lost to Western Illinois at home). In addition to that, there have only been 13 Quad three losses among the 14 Big Ten teams. And Rutgers has two of them. You could make the case that Rutgers has 2 of the ten best wins in the Big Ten this year and also 2 of 5 worst losses.

So yes, they can beat anyone. But they can also lose to anyone. They're one long list of yes-buts.

  • Yes, they're 9-5 in the Big Ten. But now they go Illinois, at Purdue, at Michigan, Wisconsin, at Indiana.
  • Yes, they have wins over teams at the top of the NET rankings: Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Iowa. But look further down the NET rankings and they've lost to 93, 96, 99 (twice), 101, 175, and 315. And they nearly lost to 176 and 307.
  • Yes, Geo Baker is back. But he can't guard Kofi (although I'd like to see him try).
  • Yes, we lost at Rutgers last year when Harper couldn't miss. He could always have another "Harper couldn't miss" game. But we have a few very solid one-on-one defenders.
  • Yes, they have a solid starting five of Baker, Mulcahey, McConnell, Harper, and Omoruyi. But they get very little production out of any of their bench guys. In Big Ten play, their leading bench scorer is averaging 3.7 ppg.

I just don't see why Rutgers is being viewed like they're being viewed. Yes, this is a dangerous road game. But we're playing at Rutgers (NET #81), not Ohio State (NET #17)

And because of that, I'm drawn to oppo all of the nervousness. I need to write down my prediction and publish it before I come to my senses.

Illinois 79, Rutgers 68


orangejulius on February 15, 2022 @ 11:47 PM

I won't be surprised if we lose, but some things I would like to see in this game:

-Plummer better shot selection

-Kofi not getting frustrated by the refs; at this point he knows he isn't getting gonna get calls.

-5 assists from Curbelo -Frazier/Grandison shoot their career %'s from 3.

-20 mins for RJ no matter what.

Bear8287 on February 16, 2022 @ 12:25 AM

Can Geo Baker + Jersey Mike's Arena make up 35 points?

Could losing Kofi + Xfinity Center make up 35 points? (Yes, 37 and Maryland is 3-11 in B1G play.)

If 60% of the Illini starting lineup combines for only 14 points and shoots 20% from the floor, the odds aren't good. The Rutger's defense will collapse on Kofi and if Plummer is the only one hitting from the outside and the Illini continue on their sub 10% from 3 shooting in the second half this probably isn't going to end well.

If the Illini put in a second half like the last two games, they will likely not walk away with a "W". Rutgers is 12-2 at home?

The last time the Ilini won at the RAC? February 25, 2018. You're pretty chipper about this game Robert. I hope that you are right.

accy88 on February 16, 2022 @ 08:56 AM

Geo Baker is no Kofi Cockburn. So no, Geo Baker cannot make up 35 points.

Bear8287 on February 16, 2022 @ 09:59 AM

Clearly not what I was saying. Rutgers is not Maryland and the Illini's success at the RAC the previous 3 seasons is about as good as it is at Xfinity Center.

I suspect that Ron Harper will have a better game than the last time these two teams played and having Geo Baker on the floor won't hurt Rutgers either.

A good chunk of the Illini starting lineup is in a funk right now and this would be a good time to break out of it.

IlliniJoe81 on February 16, 2022 @ 07:50 AM

Thank you! All this fear of Rutgers makes me think the team will be ready to prove a point.

illinijimbo on February 16, 2022 @ 09:21 AM

Love the prediction!

Positive mindset....lets get a W....

one game at time...this team is locked in on the road....(Purdue was 10 bad minutes and some weird clock crap and the hand grabbing/missed shots got them flustered)...

Mackey to RAC will be a wash on the intensity in the arena


illinijimbo on February 16, 2022 @ 09:21 AM

Love the prediction!

Positive mindset....lets get a W....

one game at time...this team is locked in on the road....(Purdue was 10 bad minutes and some weird clock crap and the hand grabbing/missed shots got them flustered)...

Mackey to RAC will be a wash on the intensity in the arena


GilThorpe on February 16, 2022 @ 12:53 PM

we are going to have our hands full I have a bad feeling on this one :(

pwillits on February 16, 2022 @ 02:35 PM

We are due for 40 minutes of good basketball. 82-65

Bear8287 on February 17, 2022 @ 03:22 AM

Is anyone able to post to the "Ident" story?

DWAIL on February 17, 2022 @ 08:31 AM

Robert, you nailed the spread, just have to reverse the team names. Ident is right!

Bear8287 on February 17, 2022 @ 11:02 AM

This reply really belongs with the Ident story, but the reply feature doesn't seem to be working at the moment...

An off night I could see, but 1 for 13?

Robert, this wasn't just one off night. Something I posted after the Northwestern game:

Here's some data, with names obscured to protect the innocent, for 3 Illini starters for the Purdue and Northwestern games.:

           FG  3pt
Player A  3-15 1-9
Player B  3-15 3-11
Player C  3-14 1-9
Combined  9-44 5-29  26 points total

Now just swap out one of those players and bring in "Player D" and you have 3 starters go:
           FG  3pt
Player A  2-7  1-4
Player B  0-3  0-3
Player D  2-8  0-4
Combined  4-18 1-11  9 points total

Slightly better from the floor, even (somehow) worse from 3 for a total of 9 points. The Illini also replaced the "throw the ball around the gym" second half from NW with "nobody but Kofi grab a rebound" tonight.

When you have a player coming off of the bench and he scores more points in 11 minutes of playing time than 3 starters score in a combined 73 minutes, when does he get a starter spot and more tick?

This team has psychological issues at the moment and needs to get them sorted out. Guys who regularly shoot in the high 30's or low 40's% from 3 don't suddenly start turning in collective 6-40 (15%) from 3 performances because they can't shoot any more. It's in their heads. The coach still believes in them, but they're not believing in themselves and you can see the lack of confidence in the shots they're putting up.

If you were looking for another angle on this game going into it one might ask, if the Illini in 3 tries with Ayo couldn't win at the RAC, what was it that made you believe that they would win this time without him?

The Illini have a lot of really interesting pieces, but it's getting late in the season. All of the injuries and players missing games has taken its toll for sure, but it's still not too late and things need to change pretty fast. For one, I'd insert RJ into the starting lineup while at least one of the starters tries to sort it all out.

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