Date: Saturday, January 16th
Location of School: Champaign, IL
Coach: John Groce (4th Year)
Mascot (kind of): Illini
2015-16 Record: 9-8 (1-3 Conference)
Nebraska travels to the Land of Lincoln to take on the Illini. Can we make it 3 in a row?
2014-15 Season:19-14 (9-9 conference)
Illinois had a down season last year as they ended the season in seventh place in the conference. They lost in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament to Michigan and lost to Arizona in the first round of the NIT.
2015-16 Season: The Walking Wounded
This season has been troubled with injuries and sickness. Point guard Tracy Abrams tore his ACL this last summer and will miss the entire season. This will be his second year that he has missed as he did the same thing the previous summer. Forward Leron Black had been out with a meniscus tear and hurt the same knee when he came back to play against North Dakota State. Former All Team Big Ten Freshman Kendrick Nunn was out with a torn ligament in his thumb. He has since returned. And finally, Mike Throne Jr. is out with a meniscus tear in his left knee. (catch your breath)
These losses on the roster has made most of the games this year a struggle. Losses to Providence, Iowa State, and Notre Dame were understandable and they were in to win in a couple of them. However, losses to North Florida and Chattanooga will most likely haunt them down the road. A big win over a ranked Purdue team on Sunday will help but they need to keep the tempo going if they want to make the post season.
Players to Watch
Kendrick Nunn - Kendrick is the leading scorer on the team bringing in a whopping 18.8 points a game which is good enough for first in the Big Ten. Not only can he shoot but has also proven to be a top defender making 5.5 rpg . Watch for him waiting to score on offense.
Malcom Hill - Illinois number two scorer and third in the Big Ten at 18.1 ppg and pulls down 5.8 rpg. Hill needs to be kept in check as he can move the ball all over the court without much trouble.
Michael Finke - Finke is a freshman forward who is averaging 9.8 pgg and 3.6 rebounds. He is young and is still finding his footing but needs to be kept in check as he is currently shooting 74% from the floor.
What will probably happen
Both these teams have been known to under perform this season. Nebraska is a team on the two game win streak which should do well for their confidence going into this game. While they have played well these wins were against two teams that are struggling greatly and with no sign of improvement this year. Illinois is a team with talent but has been bitten by injuries and other problems all season and has yet to really gel as a group. State Farm Center is known for being an intimidating place to play and the student section will probably be the rowdiest the Huskers have seen all year. On paper this should be a close one and it might be up to whichever team wants it the most.