Date: January 15th
Time: 8:00pm CST
Location: Lincoln, NE
Coach: Brad Underwood (1st Season)
2016-17 Record: 20-15 (8-10 Big Ten)
2017-18 Record: 10-8 (0-5 Big Ten)
Odds: Nebraska (-5)
Illinois has a fairly decent season going 10-3 until they hit conference play. From there it was a mixture of bad luck, occasional bad play, and a coach that was near his end. They ended up 9th in the Big Ten and were knocked out of the tournament by Michigan in the first round. Shortly after the loss the athletic department let go Jon Groce who had finished his fifth sub par season with the team.
They accepted an invitation to the NIT where they made it all the way to the quarterfinals where their season was ended by UCF. They were coached by assistant coach Jamall Walker in the tournament. While he did not stay on as the head coach he was retained in his assistant role with the team.
Brad Underwood is in his first season in Champagne. They are currently 10-8 and have yet to score a win in conference play. They’re not the prettiest team you will see but they are aggressive and scrappy. Nothing that will take them far this year but it’s something to build up from during a first year coach.
Even though they are 0-5, they have taken 3 Big Ten teams into overtime. Iowa, Maryland, and Northwestern many not have the gravitas they did in past seasons but those losses did show there is life in this team trying to find an new identity. They’ve given teams fits if their opponents come out slow. Something Nebraska has done a few times this season, including Fridays overtime loss to Penn State.
They will come out fast against the Huskers and put pressure on defense. Teams have had problems with them off and on all season.
They are lead by junior Leron Black. The 6’7” guard is averaging 14.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, and 1.1 apg. He can be a threat inside and out. With Jordy gone this game he could cause more problems for the Huskers than they want. Duby will have to up his game for the Huskers to shut down this threat.
Aaron Jordan is a 6’5” guard who will keep Nebraska’s guards on their toes. He is averaging 10.4 ppg ad 3.5 rpg. He along with freshman Trent Frazier will pressure the Huskers outside and can make you miss if they have the advantage.
This could be a very problematic game for the Huskers if they come out flat and have problems shooting the ball early on. The Illini are looking for their first conference win of the season and Nebraska could very well be it. It’s hard to say how the Huskers will adjust without Jordy in the lineup again and Illinois has the lineup to take advantage of that.
If the crowd stays in the game and the scoring droughts are kept to a minimum then I see the Huskers win. However, if the Illini get hot and keep the Huskers at bay on defense then it could be a long night in Lincoln. Right now, I’m going with Nebraska at the slightest of margins.
University of Nebraska 67 University of Illinois 65