The Big Ten Tournament at the famous Madison Square Garden will tip off Wednesday at 5:30 with the 12 vs 13 match up of the Iowa Hawkeyes and Illinois Fighting Illini.
This is not a match up that will turn a lot of heads, but it will be a competitive game with two high scoring offenses. Iowa is averaging 79.5 points per game and Illinois is averaging 75.5, which are third and sixth in the conference. They also are both in the bottom part of scoring defense in the conference with Iowa being last, giving up 78.5 points per game.
In the first match up of these two teams, Iowa won 104-97 in Overtime. This was a bitter loss for Illinois as they were up 54-41 at the end of the first half and let the Hawkeyes come back and force OT. Illinois was outscored 14-7 in Overtime and could not get going to end the game.
This was also an important game for both teams as they both entered winless in conference play. For Iowa, They got their first win in a comeback on the road and for Illinois, they lost a game at home that they controlled and it took them three more games to get their first win.
These teams only played once during the season and it was an overtime game, so this is sure to be a close, back and forth match up. Let’s take a look at some key factors for both teams in this one.
In a game that is more than likely going to be very high scoring, it is defense that will determine this one. Both teams have had their issues with getting stops as Illinois is 12th in the Big Ten in scoring defense and Iowa is 14th, but there is still a big gap between both teams. Iowa is giving up 78.5 points per game and Illinois is giving up 73.1, which is a steep gap for only one spot off each other. Iowa got back in the first game by only allowing Illinois to score 36 in the second half and forcing overtime.
Another big factor will be three-point shooting. Iowa shots it well from behind the arc at 37.3 which is fifth in the Big Ten while Illinois only shots it at 32.9 which is only twelfth in the conference. Guys like Jordan Bohannon and Isaiah Moss have to get it going early and set the tone.
2. Be smart with the ball
In the first match up, there were 31 total turnovers and Iowa had 17 alone. It did not end up costing them the game but if they do that again in this one, the outcome will likely be different.
When it comes to the turnover margin, Illinois holds the advantage significantly. They are at +3.4 on the year while Iowa is at -2.0. Illinois also averages 7.5 steals per game which is second in the Big Ten. If they want to win this game, they need to force Iowa into mistakes and get them to turn the ball over.
3. Play Motivated
It is hard to argue that both of these teams have had disappointing seasons and did not play to expectation. However, it is important to play with some motivation and give it their best shot here in the tournament and get some momentum heading into next year.
These teams are very similar in play style and player talent and this game will come down to whichever team has not given up on their season yet and still goes out and plays the best basketball that they can.