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Game Details:

Who: Illinois Fighting Illini

When: Saturday, Jan. 22 @ 7:30 p.m. CT

How: TV: BTN; Radio: ESPN 1500

Three Questions:

  1. Seriously, when does the losing end?
  2. Can Charles Buggs do ANYTHING with extended playing time?
  3. Can the Gophers take advantage of Illinois’ porous defense?

Game Prediction:

Illinois over Gophers 65-60.

———-

The Gophers are mired in a terrible losing streak, and are off to their worst conference start since 03-04. They haven’t tasted victory in over a month and are losers of 11 of their last 12. While there’s no hope for any type of postseason play, there’s still opportunity for the team to meet one of it’s primary goals of the season — show growth and development throughout the season. The past two games have shown some improvement, with single digit losses to two of the better teams in the B1G, Indiana and Michigan. This is on the heels of historically embarrassing 25-point losses to Northwestern and Nebraska. Hey, it’s something, right!?

Illinois

Nickname: Fighting Illini
Record: 9-10 (1-5)
RPI: 124
Key Players: Malcolm Hill, Kendrick Nunn
Notes: The Illini are coming off a 34-point loss to Indiana

The opportunities for conference victories this year are few and far between, but a home contest against a reeling Illinois team is one of them. The Illini are a slight cut above the Minnesota/Rutgers level of the conference this year, but are are one of the more beatable teams on the schedule, and represent a good chance for the Gophers to stop the bleeding and get in the conference win column.

Ravaged by injuries, the Illini really aren’t playing very good basketball. They have a win over Purdue, which is something, but are fresh off a 34-point drubbing at the hands of Indiana and losers of five of their last six. It’s not pretty. And their defense is bad, on par with the Gophers, and they have the conference’s worst opponent FG%. Oh, and they rank almost dead last (337th) in rebounds per game. Talk about opportunity!

Still, the Gophers suck at shooting, so even if the Illini are giving up wide open shots, it’s not like Minnesota has proven it can take advantage of it. They rank 304th in the nation in FG%, which, outside of Temple and St. John’s, is the worst of any major conference team. Nate Mason had a good game against Michigan, scoring a career-high 25 points. So that was nice.

The lineup shakeup continues with seniors Joey King and Carlos Morris coming off the bench in favor of getting Dupree McBrayer and, oddly, Charles Buggs more playing time. This is a good thing, since we’ll see no more of King and Morris after this year, and the rest of the season is about development for the next generation.

Still, hoping for a victory over a terrible Illinois team is where we find ourselves these days. The silver linings are few and far between. This season sucks, man.