Illini Try to Tame Cats

Illinois had a troubling weekend that included a loss to Purdue. Northwestern is at an all-time high after defeating Iowa in Iowa City. Read here to see how IlliniBoard.com powered by Illini Nation sees this one going down.

Illinois and Northwestern couldn't be more opposite right now. That is how funny college basketball can be. Just a week ago Illinois was on cloud nine getting oral commitments from two top juniors and owning a 10-2 record. After a loss at home to Purdue on Saturday, the smiles turned to frowns quickly. At Northwestern, the smiles are back as they received notice that former McDonald's All-American Michael Thompson will be playing for them next year. On top of that, they went to Iowa and beat the Hawkeyes in what was considered a major upset.

So which Illinois team will show up on Wednesday night? Will it be the quick, athletic, and determined team that shouts "Big 10 Champs" after their huddles? Or will it be the selfish, frustrated, and troubled team that was beat down by the Boilermakers?

The Illini get a big boost with the return of Luther Head. Rich McBride was forced to play a season high 33 minutes and Weber was not allowed the substitution patterns he wanted, especially with Deron Williams not a full strength. Weber has publicly challenged his players by questioning how much they really want it. He's even vowed to shake up the lineup a bit and move Dee Brown to the point position and Deron Williams to the 2-guard slot.

NORTHWESTERN'S KEYS TO VICTORY
  1. Frustrate the Illini by slowing the game down to their speed. Coach Weber has claimed his players get bored on defense if they're forced to play the full 35 seconds.
  2. Exploit the 2nd chances given to them. Illinois is not a great defensive rebounding team. They give you lots of chances to sneak in for rebounds or put backs as they don't block out very well.
  3. Pound the ball inside. Illinois has had trouble defending the opposing post players, especially those that can step out and hit 10 footers.
ILLINOIS' KEYS TO VICTORY
  1. Run run run and then run some more. With Luther Head back the Illini should be more fresh and able to fast break the Wildcats to death off of turnovers and rebounds.
  2. Patience in the halfcourt set. If the fast break is not available Illinois cannot continue to jack up shots early in the shot clock, especially 3 pointers. Run the Wildcats off solid screens and utilize the backdoor cuts available to them.
  3. Forget the last game. If Illinois can come out and put some of those bad thoughts behind them by making an early run, they should take this one.

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