Northwestern vs. Illinois basketball preview

USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern takes on Illinois, and it shouldn't be as bad as you might think. Well, yeah, it should be, but there's a chance it isn't.

Yes, I do still have the energy to do this! Northwestern plays Illinois tonight, and it might not go well!

Are they good?: (Sigh) yeah. Not as good as Michigan and Minnesota, and Kenpom thinks they aren't as good as Iowa, but I disagree. They've had some really close calls that were nearly bad losses - one-point OT win to Hawaii, two-point win vs. Auburn. They have lost four of six.

What are they good at?: When shots are falling, this team is extremely hard to beat. Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson both like to pull up from beyond the arc even though they're proficient drivers, and Tyler Griffey is occasionally lethal. The problem is, sometimes, those shots don't fall, which is why this team has lost four of six. That said, as a Northwestern fan, I'm more worried about a 1-5 pick and roll with Tracy Abrams - who's developed into an alright point guard as a sophomore - and Nnanna Egwu, who is more athletic than a 6-foot-11 guy Northwestern can handle.

Completely flawed hypothesis: Northwestern is better on the road then at home. (Maybe because no Northwestern fans attend home basketball games.) Five of Northwestern's six losses have been at home, including one to UIC, a blowout against Iowa, and a 28-point loss to Michigan, while on the road, NU has its only Big Ten win, wins at Baylor, a victory in the South Padre Island Invitational, and a much better performance vs. Minnesota than they had vs. Michigan.

Can Northwestern win?: In all honesty, yes. The offense has been awful lately, but we know that it can turn on in stretches. The key is to turn Illnois into a shooting team and hope they don't fall. More likely than not, they will fall at a higher pace than Northwestern can hit, but there's a chance that they're off like they were vs. Purdue, because if not, it'll be a blowout.

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