Illini Wonk
Sunday, February 06, 2005
  Illinois vs. Indiana, '05 vs. '76
Perhaps the biggest challenge the Fighting Illini will face today against the Indiana Hoosiers will be fighting off complacency. The Hoosiers are 5-3 in the conference, which puts them in a tie for fourth place. However, Indiana will be most likely be without their star Bracey Wright, who severely sprained his ankle and was on crutches at Friday's practice. Terry Hutchens of the Indianapolis Star has more here. According to Mark Tupper, the Illini are preparing for the Hoosiers as if he's playing.

That could be why the Las Vegas Line on the game favors Illinois by 20.5. Tupper blogs that the Fighting Illini would benefit from better competition.

However, the real contest here is between the history of these two programs. As Hutchens writes, Indiana has shot to protect '76 team's distinction. Indiana was the last team to go undefeated and win the national championship and their meeting with Illinois today obviously draws comparisons. Quinn Buckner, who starred on the '76 Hoosiers team, sees parallels between his college team and the current Illini.

In the Indianapolis Star, Phil Richards has a nice write-up here for Indiana fans who might not have been paying attention to the Illini so far this season. According to Lindsey Willhite of the Daily Herald, this game presents a great opportunity for the program. In his write-up here, Willhite says the game before the Super Bowl should turn into a free nationally televised two-hour infomercial. Illinois official game notes here.
I think it's logical to say they would benefit from playing tougher competition, but Wisconsin, at OSU, and even without Pierce at Iowa will not be easy games. Then the last two rounds in the BT Tournament will probably give us the best in our conference including MSU yet again. There are tests remaining in this regular season and beyond.

For games that turn out to be without competition, there is value in getting some minutes for Warren Carter and maybe even Shaun Pruitt. If depth is going to be an issue in the tournament, those guys may be forced to play. Nice to get a little bit more experience for them.

I saw a graphic yesterday showing the records of teams who have winning records against top 25 teams. They only included teams still in the top 25 but I prefer to consider where the opponents were at game time. Only Wake at 6-2 have played more games against top 25 teams while the Illini showed 5-0 although I consider them
6-0 and the only undefeated team in that bunch.

We have played the tough competition and we still have plenty ahead.
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