Pre-game Blog: Illini at Minnesota

Illini Inquirer publisher Jeremy Werner is blogging from Minneapolis for Illinois at Minnesota

Tipoff

That does it for the pregame blog. Thanks for reading. I'm headed exclusively to Twitter now. I'll have the Rapid Recap moments after the game and the postgame press conference ASAP.

10 minutes to tipoff

Illini starting lineup

F - Michael Finke

F - Malcolm Hill

G - Kendrick Nunn

G - Jalen Coleman-Lands

G - Jaylon Tate

The Illini are 2-3 with that lineup, including 0-2 during Big Ten play.

20 minutes to tipoff

Your Illini media contingent  tonight: The News-Gazette's Scott Richey,  Illini Report's Rob McColley, WCIA's Bret Behrens and myself. Seek out their stuff and consume it. All these guys work hard to bring you different perspectives on your team.

I asked strength and conditioning coach Adam Fletcher if he was going to throw down a monstrous dunk in the pregame. He said it was a "game-time decision." If he did it, I was in the locker room. He put down his best of the season against Indiana. But that led to a bad game from his team. Fletcher is a scary-looking dude, and he was a badass basketball player. The 6-foot-8 West Virginia native played at Miami (Ohio) from 2007-10 -- Groce played against him at Ohio -- and was the team's defensive player of the year as a senior. You didn't want to mess with Fletcher on the court.

The Illini need a player like that. But, no, he cannot suit up tonight, or ever again at the collegelevel.

30 minutes to tipoff

It was amazing how good Kendrick Nunn wasimmediately after returning from the thumb injury that costhim the firstfive games of the season. But he's finally hit a funk, a mini-one at least. Over the last two games, Nunn is 8-for-25 FG (32 percent), including 5-for-17 from three. He's a three-point shooter, but he's taking bad ones right now. He's forcing them early in the clock and taking them out of rhythm. It feels like he's pressing. To win games, Illinois can't afford either of its stars, Nunn and Malcolm Hill, to have bad games.

The reality of Big Ten play is hitting Michael Finke hard. He scored 13-plus points in five of the final six Big Ten games. He is averaging just 7.5 points (on 35.6 percent shooting) and 4.3 rebounds during conference play. Finke is the third player teams scheme for -- he's no longer a secret -- and Illinois can't afford that type of  production from their third best player.

Interesting stat: freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands, who is averaging 10.0 points during B1G play, is shooting 38.9 percent both from the field (21-for-54) and from three (14-for-36). He's a dangerous three-point shooter. But he's a bit one-dimensional right now.

50 minutes to tipoff

I'm on Mike Thorne Jr. Watch right now. He isn't warming up with his Illini teammates and is sitting on the bench next to the rest of Team Street Clothes. Annnnnd... we just got word. He is OFFICIALLY OUT with knee pain following Thursday's practice. He did not practice Friday.

Thorne Jr. now sitting with #illini street clothes crew pic.twitter.com/Ush5l09yGd

Thorne played 16 minutes -- more than Groce expected -- his first game back since November surgery to remove a torn meniscus in his knee. He seemed to labor a bit in that game but added a big presence on the boards, pulling in nine in 16 minutes. A great stat from our very own Derek PiperMichael Finke and Maverick Morgan have posted eight rebounds combined over the last three games in 112 combined minutes. 

Thorne's absence obviously will hurt, though Minnesota is one of the Big Ten's worst rebounding teams.

60 minutes to tipoff

John Groce is a lightning rod right now as -- barring a miracle  turnaround -- his program is heading for its third-straight missed NCAA Tournament. If/when that happens, it'll be the first time that's happened at Illinois since 1979. Not good. He's had terrible fortune with injuries. But even without the injuries, this team still may be a bubble team. He's recruited this roster and this roster hasn't been good  enough the past couple seasons to withstand the injury bug.

But I will give him this, he's right about player leadership. This team lacks it terribly. Malcolm Hill's comments in this video really reinforce that. He didn't feel he needed to say anything to the team after the Indiana embarrassment, saying he wanted to stay positive. Kendrick Nunn is struggling to find his voice as a leader too. But the Illini need a leader, and they need it to be a player. Harrington wrote it this week. Criticism has more weight coming from a player than a coach. The Illini just don't have that guy to ignite his teammates. Maybe they do ... but he's sitting out for the second straight year due to injury.

75 minutes to tipoff

Thank you to all of you who have taken advantage of our FLASH SALE today. If you missed it, it's 9 months for the price of one ($9.95)! It's a great deal for great premium content from our team, including lead basketball reporter Derek Piper, recruiting reporter Ryan Easterling, basketball analyst Sean Harrington (great job on the ESPN call for Indiana-Northwestern today, Sean) and football analyst Micheal Young. Sign up here.

Premium membership includes access to premium articles and the premium message  boards, where we interact with premium members and provide the latest buzz in recruiting, the AD search and coaching searches. You also get access to premium stories across the Scout network. Anyway, that's my sales pitch. We feel we offer a great product.

I know this is a basketball pregame blog, but I did have a behind-the-scenes story on Illini football recruiting today. Thanks to the Illini staff, which allowed me to sit in on their 'war room' meeting last week. The story really takes you into  what goes into scheduling an official visit weekend and how this staff attacks recruiting.

90 minutes to tipoff

Just overheard two Minnesota supporters talking. Their team has lost eight straight and 11 of their last 12, but they sound optimistic tonight.

We know why, of course. Outside of the Purdue game, Illinois is struggling, losing five of their first six Big Ten games. The last one, a 103-69 loss at Indiana, was embarrassing. Though, Indiana has now embarrassed three straight opponents -- Ohio State, Illinois and Northwestern -- at home by a combined total of 91 points.

One of the Minnesota supporters said, "It's a day to think positive." The other responded, "As long as they don't play like they did against Purdue."

Well, that Purdue game is a bit of an outlier. On the radio this week, we did an exercise: How many games has this team -- even considering its injuries -- played up to its potential. I came up with five or six: UAB (win), Providence (loss), Iowa State (loss), Ohio State (loss), and Purdue (win) and maybe Notre Dame (loss). Others some may argue I'd argue against: North Dakota State (down by double digits in second half), Western Carolina (too close), Yale (four-point home win), South Dakota (too close), Missouri (blew a big halftime lead), Michigan (blew halftime lead in minutes).

Yes, the win-loss column matters most. But fans also want to see improvement, consistency and, most of all, competitiveness. All areas are a struggle this season. The way last season ended left a sour taste in the fan base's mouth. The way three of the last four games -- and most of the season -- has developed is just leaving a bitter taste.

Two hours until tipoff

It's my first trip to the Barn and I just took myself on a tour. First a quick history lesson. Williams Arena -- not named that until the 1950s -- was first known as University of Minnesota Fieldhouse when it was built from 1927-28 at a cost of $650,000. The building was orginally constructed with more than 2.5 million bricks and 6.2 million pounds of steel.

The building layout and construction reminds me a lot of the UI Armory. It was a lot of old-school charm to it. Definitely unique in an era of NBA-like arenas in college hoops.

Come along with me!

Three hours until tipoff

Good afternoon from Minneapolis! This is my second trip to this shivering city in the last two months. The last trip didn't end well for Illinois, with football taking a 32-23 loss at TCF Bank Stadium.

The temperature  is about the same. I can't complain. It's about 27 degrees and sunny. It's balmy for some natives. I was working at a coffee shop on campus when four college guys walked by in swishy pants and hoodies. #MinnesotaTough

Last time, I drove to Minnesota. It was that long at about seven hours. But I experienced the shortest flgithof my life today: 1 hour and 3 minutes. And I didn't have to deal with Wisconsin drives. You guys know the left lane is for passing, right?! RIGHT?! I don't often get road rage, but four hours of Wisconsinites joy-riding on the interstates even gets to us even-keeled drivers.

Anyway, the Illini basketball team is looking to end an eight-game road losing streak. Minnesota (6-13, 0-7) has lost 11 of 12, but  this isn't a gimme for Illinois. The Illini (9-10, 1-5 Big Ten) have lost 10 of their last 12 Big Ten road games and don't have any more momentum than the Gophers coming into this one. The Illini have lost their last two games (vs. Nebraska and at Indiana) by a combined 45 points. Meanwhile, Minnesota seems to at least be improving, losing its last two games (vs. Indiana and at Michigan by a combined 12 points).

We're going to change it up here on the blog. It's now going to  be a pregame blog only. We'll fill you in on the sights and sounds and any news before the game until tipoff. But updating this blog, plus Twitter and writing recaps and columns has proven to be a bit much -- especially when WiFi is inconsistent.

So if you want to follow our thoughts during the game, just switch it over to Twitter after tipoff.


Illini Inquirer Top Stories

20 minutes to tipoff

\n

Your Illini media contingent  tonight: The News-Gazette's Scott Richey,  Illini Report's Rob McColley, WCIA's Bret Behrens and myself. Seek out their stuff and consume it. All these guys work hard to bring you different perspectives on your team.

\n

I asked strength and conditioning coach Adam Fletcher if he was going to throw down a monstrous dunk in the pregame. He said it was a \"game-time decision.\" If he did it, I was in the locker room. He put down his best of the season against Indiana. But that led to a bad game from his team. Fletcher is a scary-looking dude, and he was a badass basketball player. The 6-foot-8 West Virginia native played at Miami (Ohio) from 2007-10 -- Groce played against him at Ohio -- and was the team's defensive player of the year as a senior. You didn't want to mess with Fletcher on the court.

\n

The Illini need a player like that. But, no, he cannot suit up tonight, or ever again at the collegelevel.

\n

30 minutes to tipoff

\n

It was amazing how good Kendrick Nunn wasimmediately after returning from the thumb injury that costhim the firstfive games of the season. But he's finally hit a funk, a mini-one at least. Over the last two games, Nunn is 8-for-25 FG (32 percent), including 5-for-17 from three. He's a three-point shooter, but he's taking bad ones right now. He's forcing them early in the clock and taking them out of rhythm. It feels like he's pressing. To win games, Illinois can't afford either of its stars, Nunn and Malcolm Hill, to have bad games.

\n

The reality of Big Ten play is hitting Michael Finke hard. He scored 13-plus points in five of the final six Big Ten games. He is averaging just 7.5 points (on 35.6 percent shooting) and 4.3 rebounds during conference play. Finke is the third player teams scheme for -- he's no longer a secret -- and Illinois can't afford that type of  production from their third best player.

\n

Interesting stat: freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands, who is averaging 10.0 points during B1G play, is shooting 38.9 percent both from the field (21-for-54) and from three (14-for-36). He's a dangerous three-point shooter. But he's a bit one-dimensional right now.

\n

50 minutes to tipoff

\n

I'm on Mike Thorne Jr. Watch right now. He isn't warming up with his Illini teammates and is sitting on the bench next to the rest of Team Street Clothes. Annnnnd... we just got word. He is OFFICIALLY OUT with knee pain following Thursday's practice. He did not practice Friday.

\n

Thorne Jr. now sitting with #illini street clothes crew pic.twitter.com/Ush5l09yGd

\n
— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) January 24, 2016
\n

Thorne played 16 minutes -- more than Groce expected -- his first game back since November surgery to remove a torn meniscus in his knee. He seemed to labor a bit in that game but added a big presence on the boards, pulling in nine in 16 minutes. A great stat from our very own Derek PiperMichael Finke and Maverick Morgan have posted eight rebounds combined over the last three games in 112 combined minutes. 

\n

Thorne's absence obviously will hurt, though Minnesota is one of the Big Ten's worst rebounding teams.

\n

60 minutes to tipoff

\n

John Groce is a lightning rod right now as -- barring a miracle  turnaround -- his program is heading for its third-straight missed NCAA Tournament. If/when that happens, it'll be the first time that's happened at Illinois since 1979. Not good. He's had terrible fortune with injuries. But even without the injuries, this team still may be a bubble team. He's recruited this roster and this roster hasn't been good  enough the past couple seasons to withstand the injury bug.

\n

But I will give him this, he's right about player leadership. This team lacks it terribly. Malcolm Hill's comments in this video really reinforce that. He didn't feel he needed to say anything to the team after the Indiana embarrassment, saying he wanted to stay positive. Kendrick Nunn is struggling to find his voice as a leader too. But the Illini need a leader, and they need it to be a player. Harrington wrote it this week. Criticism has more weight coming from a player than a coach. The Illini just don't have that guy to ignite his teammates. Maybe they do ... but he's sitting out for the second straight year due to injury.

\n

75 minutes to tipoff

\n

Thank you to all of you who have taken advantage of our FLASH SALE today. If you missed it, it's 9 months for the price of one ($9.95)! It's a great deal for great premium content from our team, including lead basketball reporter Derek Piper, recruiting reporter Ryan Easterling, basketball analyst Sean Harrington (great job on the ESPN call for Indiana-Northwestern today, Sean) and football analyst Micheal Young. Sign up here.

\n

Premium membership includes access to premium articles and the premium message  boards, where we interact with premium members and provide the latest buzz in recruiting, the AD search and coaching searches. You also get access to premium stories across the Scout network. Anyway, that's my sales pitch. We feel we offer a great product.

\n

I know this is a basketball pregame blog, but I did have a behind-the-scenes story on Illini football recruiting today. Thanks to the Illini staff, which allowed me to sit in on their 'war room' meeting last week. The story really takes you into  what goes into scheduling an official visit weekend and how this staff attacks recruiting.

\n

90 minutes to tipoff

\n

Just overheard two Minnesota supporters talking. Their team has lost eight straight and 11 of their last 12, but they sound optimistic tonight.

\n

We know why, of course. Outside of the Purdue game, Illinois is struggling, losing five of their first six Big Ten games. The last one, a 103-69 loss at Indiana, was embarrassing. Though, Indiana has now embarrassed three straight opponents -- Ohio State, Illinois and Northwestern -- at home by a combined total of 91 points.

\n

One of the Minnesota supporters said, \"It's a day to think positive.\" The other responded, \"As long as they don't play like they did against Purdue.\"

\n

Well, that Purdue game is a bit of an outlier. On the radio this week, we did an exercise: How many games has this team -- even considering its injuries -- played up to its potential. I came up with five or six: UAB (win), Providence (loss), Iowa State (loss), Ohio State (loss), and Purdue (win) and maybe Notre Dame (loss). Others some may argue I'd argue against: North Dakota State (down by double digits in second half), Western Carolina (too close), Yale (four-point home win), South Dakota (too close), Missouri (blew a big halftime lead), Michigan (blew halftime lead in minutes).

\n

Yes, the win-loss column matters most. But fans also want to see improvement, consistency and, most of all, competitiveness. All areas are a struggle this season. The way last season ended left a sour taste in the fan base's mouth. The way three of the last four games -- and most of the season -- has developed is just leaving a bitter taste.

\n

Two hours until tipoff

\n

It's my first trip to the Barn and I just took myself on a tour. First a quick history lesson. Williams Arena -- not named that until the 1950s -- was first known as University of Minnesota Fieldhouse when it was built from 1927-28 at a cost of $650,000. The building was orginally constructed with more than 2.5 million bricks and 6.2 million pounds of steel.

\n

The building layout and construction reminds me a lot of the UI Armory. It was a lot of old-school charm to it. Definitely unique in an era of NBA-like arenas in college hoops.

\n

Come along with me!

\n
\n

My first game at the Barn pic.twitter.com/NDzEOa9Jnv

\n— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) January 23, 2016
\n
\n

Old-school charm pic.twitter.com/vWsQpz2EkB

\n— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) January 23, 2016
\n
\n

Worse seat at the barn? pic.twitter.com/e92pVymsJV

\n— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) January 23, 2016
\n
\n

This is the view of the raised floor from the front row bleacher. pic.twitter.com/kIFjZt5wwQ

\n— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) January 23, 2016
\n

\n

\n

Three hours until tipoff

\n

Good afternoon from Minneapolis! This is my second trip to this shivering city in the last two months. The last trip didn't end well for Illinois, with football taking a 32-23 loss at TCF Bank Stadium.

\n

The temperature  is about the same. I can't complain. It's about 27 degrees and sunny. It's balmy for some natives. I was working at a coffee shop on campus when four college guys walked by in swishy pants and hoodies. #MinnesotaTough

\n

Last time, I drove to Minnesota. It was that long at about seven hours. But I experienced the shortest flgithof my life today: 1 hour and 3 minutes. And I didn't have to deal with Wisconsin drives. You guys know the left lane is for passing, right?! RIGHT?! I don't often get road rage, but four hours of Wisconsinites joy-riding on the interstates even gets to us even-keeled drivers.

\n

Anyway, the Illini basketball team is looking to end an eight-game road losing streak. Minnesota (6-13, 0-7) has lost 11 of 12, but  this isn't a gimme for Illinois. The Illini (9-10, 1-5 Big Ten) have lost 10 of their last 12 Big Ten road games and don't have any more momentum than the Gophers coming into this one. The Illini have lost their last two games (vs. Nebraska and at Indiana) by a combined 45 points. Meanwhile, Minnesota seems to at least be improving, losing its last two games (vs. Indiana and at Michigan by a combined 12 points).

\n

We're going to change it up here on the blog. It's now going to  be a pregame blog only. We'll fill you in on the sights and sounds and any news before the game until tipoff. But updating this blog, plus Twitter and writing recaps and columns has proven to be a bit much -- especially when WiFi is inconsistent.

\n

So if you want to follow our thoughts during the game, just switch it over to Twitter after tipoff.

","mobileBody":"

Tipoff

That does it for the pregame blog. Thanks for reading. I'm headed exclusively to Twitter now. I'll have the Rapid Recap moments after the game and the postgame press conference ASAP.

10 minutes to tipoff

Illini starting lineup

F - Michael Finke

F - Malcolm Hill

G - Kendrick Nunn

G - Jalen Coleman-Lands

G - Jaylon Tate

The Illini are 2-3 with that lineup, including 0-2 during Big Ten play.

Very late-arriving crowd in Minneapolis pic.twitter.com/9ZnGaoXBsI

— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) January 24, 2016

20 minutes to tipoff

Your Illini media contingent tonight: The News-Gazette's Scott Richey, Illini Report's Rob McColley, WCIA's Bret Behrens and myself. Seek out their stuff and consume it. All these guys work hard to bring you different perspectives on your team.

I asked strength and conditioning coach Adam Fletcher if he was going to throw down a monstrous dunk in the pregame. He said it was a \"game-time decision.\" If he did it, I was in the locker room. He put down his best of the season against Indiana. But that led to a bad game from his team. Fletcher is a scary-looking dude, and he was a badass basketball player. The 6-foot-8 West Virginia native played at Miami (Ohio) from 2007-10 -- Groce played against him at Ohio -- and was the team's defensive player of the year as a senior. You didn't want to mess with Fletcher on the court.

The Illini need a player like that. But, no, he cannot suit up tonight, or ever again at the collegelevel.

30 minutes to tipoff

It was amazing how good Kendrick Nunn wasimmediately after returning from the thumb injury that costhim the firstfive games of the season. But he's finally hit a funk, a mini-one at least. Over the last two games, Nunn is 8-for-25 FG (32 percent), including 5-for-17 from three. He's a three-point shooter, but he's taking bad ones right now. He's forcing them early in the clock and taking them out of rhythm. It feels like he's pressing. To win games, Illinois can't afford either of its stars, Nunn and Malcolm Hill, to have bad games.

The reality of Big Ten play is hitting Michael Finke hard. He scored 13-plus points in five of the final six Big Ten games. He is averaging just 7.5 points (on 35.6 percent shooting) and 4.3 rebounds during conference play. Finke is the third player teams scheme for -- he's no longer a secret -- and Illinois can't afford that type of production from their third best player.

Interesting stat: freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands, who is averaging 10.0 points during B1G play, is shooting 38.9 percent both from the field (21-for-54) and from three (14-for-36). He's a dangerous three-point shooter. But he's a bit one-dimensional right now.

50 minutes to tipoff

I'm on Mike Thorne Jr. Watch right now. He isn't warming up with his Illini teammates and is sitting on the bench next to the rest of Team Street Clothes. Annnnnd... we just got word. He is OFFICIALLY OUT with knee pain following Thursday's practice. He did not practice Friday.

Thorne Jr. now sitting with #illini street clothes crew pic.twitter.com/Ush5l09yGd

— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) January 24, 2016

Thorne played 16 minutes -- more than Groce expected -- his first game back since November surgery to remove a torn meniscus in his knee. He seemed to labor a bit in that game but added a big presence on the boards, pulling in nine in 16 minutes. A great stat from our very own Derek Piper: Michael Finke and Maverick Morgan have posted eight rebounds combined over the last three games in 112 combined minutes.

Thorne's absence obviously will hurt, though Minnesota is one of the Big Ten's worst rebounding teams.

60 minutes to tipoff

John Groce is a lightning rod right now as -- barring a miracle turnaround -- his program is heading for its third-straight missed NCAA Tournament. If/when that happens, it'll be the first time that's happened at Illinois since 1979. Not good. He's had terrible fortune with injuries. But even without the injuries, this team still may be a bubble team. He's recruited this roster and this roster hasn't been good enough the past couple seasons to withstand the injury bug.

But I will give him this, he's right about player leadership. This team lacks it terribly. Malcolm Hill's comments in this video really reinforce that. He didn't feel he needed to say anything to the team after the Indiana embarrassment, saying he wanted to stay positive. Kendrick Nunn is struggling to find his voice as a leader too. But the Illini need a leader, and they need it to be a player. Harrington wrote it this week. Criticism has more weight coming from a player than a coach. The Illini just don't have that guy to ignite his teammates. Maybe they do ... but he's sitting out for the second straight year due to injury.

75 minutes to tipoff

Thank you to all of you who have taken advantage of our FLASH SALE today. If you missed it, it's 9 months for the price of one ($9.95)! It's a great deal for great premium content from our team, including lead basketball reporter Derek Piper, recruiting reporter Ryan Easterling, basketball analyst Sean Harrington (great job on the ESPN call for Indiana-Northwestern today, Sean) and football analyst Micheal Young. Sign up here.

Premium membership includes access to premium articles and the premium message boards, where we interact with premium members and provide the latest buzz in recruiting, the AD search and coaching searches. You also get access to premium stories across the Scout network. Anyway, that's my sales pitch. We feel we offer a great product.

I know this is a basketball pregame blog, but I did have a behind-the-scenes story on Illini football recruiting today. Thanks to the Illini staff, which allowed me to sit in on their 'war room' meeting last week. The story really takes you into what goes into scheduling an official visit weekend and how this staff attacks recruiting.

90 minutes to tipoff

Just overheard two Minnesota supporters talking. Their team has lost eight straight and 11 of their last 12, but they sound optimistic tonight.

We know why, of course. Outside of the Purdue game, Illinois is struggling, losing five of their first six Big Ten games. The last one, a 103-69 loss at Indiana, was embarrassing. Though, Indiana has now embarrassed three straight opponents -- Ohio State, Illinois and Northwestern -- at home by a combined total of 91 points.

One of the Minnesota supporters said, \"It's a day to think positive.\" The other responded, \"As long as they don't play like they did against Purdue.\"

Well, that Purdue game is a bit of an outlier. On the radio this week, we did an exercise: How many games has this team -- even considering its injuries -- played up to its potential. I came up with five or six: UAB (win), Providence (loss), Iowa State (loss), Ohio State (loss), and Purdue (win) and maybe Notre Dame (loss). Others some may argue I'd argue against: North Dakota State (down by double digits in second half), Western Carolina (too close), Yale (four-point home win), South Dakota (too close), Missouri (blew a big halftime lead), Michigan (blew halftime lead in minutes).

Yes, the win-loss column matters most. But fans also want to see improvement, consistency and, most of all, competitiveness. All areas are a struggle this season. The way last season ended left a sour taste in the fan base's mouth. The way three of the last four games -- and most of the season -- has developed is just leaving a bitter taste.

Two hours until tipoff

It's my first trip to the Barn and I just took myself on a tour. First a quick history lesson. Williams Arena -- not named that until the 1950s -- was first known as University of Minnesota Fieldhouse when it was built from 1927-28 at a cost of $650,000. The building was orginally constructed with more than 2.5 million bricks and 6.2 million pounds of steel.

The building layout and construction reminds me a lot of the UI Armory. It was a lot of old-school charm to it. Definitely unique in an era of NBA-like arenas in college hoops.

Come along with me!

My first game at the Barn pic.twitter.com/NDzEOa9Jnv

— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) January 23, 2016

Old-school charm pic.twitter.com/vWsQpz2EkB

— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) January 23, 2016

Worse seat at the barn? pic.twitter.com/e92pVymsJV

— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) January 23, 2016

This is the view of the raised floor from the front row bleacher. pic.twitter.com/kIFjZt5wwQ

— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) January 23, 2016

Three hours until tipoff

Good afternoon from Minneapolis! This is my second trip to this shivering city in the last two months. The last trip didn't end well for Illinois, with football taking a 32-23 loss at TCF Bank Stadium.

The temperature is about the same. I can't complain. It's about 27 degrees and sunny. It's balmy for some natives. I was working at a coffee shop on campus when four college guys walked by in swishy pants and hoodies. #MinnesotaTough

Last time, I drove to Minnesota. It was that long at about seven hours. But I experienced the shortest flgithof my life today: 1 hour and 3 minutes. And I didn't have to deal with Wisconsin drives. You guys know the left lane is for passing, right?! RIGHT?! I don't often get road rage, but four hours of Wisconsinites joy-riding on the interstates even gets to us even-keeled drivers.

Anyway, the Illini basketball team is looking to end an eight-game road losing streak. Minnesota (6-13, 0-7) has lost 11 of 12, but this isn't a gimme for Illinois. The Illini (9-10, 1-5 Big Ten) have lost 10 of their last 12 Big Ten road games and don't have any more momentum than the Gophers coming into this one. The Illini have lost their last two games (vs. Nebraska and at Indiana) by a combined 45 points. Meanwhile, Minnesota seems to at least be improving, losing its last two games (vs. Indiana and at Michigan by a combined 12 points).

We're going to change it up here on the blog. It's now going to be a pregame blog only. We'll fill you in on the sights and sounds and any news before the game until tipoff. But updating this blog, plus Twitter and writing recaps and columns has proven to be a bit much -- especially when WiFi is inconsistent.

So if you want to follow our thoughts during the game, just switch it over to Twitter after tipoff.

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