The Pregame Intel Report

NU Coach <b>Bill Carmody's Wildcats</b> have their first Big 10 Tournament Win. So now they get to play the tournament's #2 Seed, the <b>Fighting Illini</b>. <br><br> Last time, the <b>Cats'</b> fought back from a big deficit but the Illini have a lot of talent to go with their respect for our undersized <b>Wildcats</b>.<br><br> It should be a good one in the United Center tonight...

There isn't much that hard core Wildcat fans don't know about the Fighting Illini
They get local coverage from the same newspapers we do, and in some cases you'd think they were playing in South Chicago instead of down in Champaign however....

There are some parallels with Minnesota that Illinois coach Bill Self might want to ignore...
If we don't play well," said Self, [Chicago Tribune] "we may be a six [seed]. If we don't play well, we may be a five. If we do play well, maybe we're a three.
There it is, that NCAA fixation - something the 'Cats don't necessarily have going into today's game and somthing that the Illinois Assistants aren't worried about either - they watched NU dismantle Minny's zone and man-to-man...
We weren't surprised at all that Northwestern won," said Illini Assistant Norm Roberts [Chicago Trib]. We thought Northwestern was as good as any team in the league when we played them at the United Center [in February]. I thought the big key for them was their dribble penetration.

"The challenge they present for us is that they play like they have four guards. We have to be very patient and not let them get easy baskets."
Gee, that's what NU Assistant Paul Lee said after the Iowa game - NU starts 4 guard sized players. I guess Illinois doesn't like to face a team that's playing "small."

In any case, despite Coach Self's comments above, I don't think NU will put Illinois out of their game because they're preoccupied with making the NCAAs. I do think the Wildcats as a team, realizes that they are better than their record and when they play their game, they can play with anyone.

The Last Time
Illinois charged out shooting 90% in the same United Center on February 22nd -  the Wildcats managed to close to within 4 points with 5 minutes in the 2nd half, But then Big 10 Player of the Year Brian Cook and Roger Powell took over and pulled out the 73-61 win.
The Big Guns
Senior Forward Brian Cook usually comes up big for the Illini. He's leading the Big 10 in scoring,  averaging 20.1 points a game, and is 3rd in rebounds with 7.1. He almost outscored Michigan [26-27] in the 2nd half of Illinois' win over them.

Sophomore Forward Roger Powell demonstrated his scoring  abilities last time we played. He ranks 2nd in the Big 10 in shooting percentage with 60.5%

From the Arc: Senior Sean Harrington is 55 of 127 - leading the Big 10 with a 43.3% average.

Then there's the all frosh backcourt of Dee Brown and Deron Williams. They're pretty good too.
The Starters
Forwards: #34 Brian Cook [Sr 6-10, 20.1ppg/7.1 rpg]
#40 James Augustine [Fr 6-10, 7.0/5.6]

#11 Dee Brown [Fr 6-0, 12.4/3.7/2.1 asst]
#5 Deron Williams [Fr 6-3, 6.3/3.1/4.7 asst]
#24 Sean Harrington  [Sr 6-3, 7.5/2.3]

The Illini do bring in 7-2 Soph Nick Smith [5.5/3.0] as a center but he had been nursing sore feet but has played in 25 of 26 games..
The Rest of the Team
C Nick Smith [right - 7-2 Soph, 19.5 mins/5.5 ppg], F Roger Powell [6-6 Soph 12 mins/8.9 ppg] and G Blandon Ferguson [6-3 Sr, 7.3 mins] seem to be the main guys off the bench.The entire  Illini bench scores 19.9 points per game and averages 9.3 off the boards.

6-9 Freshman Forward Aaron Spears [knee] is out with a knee injury injuries.
Challenges for the Cats
Pretty Simple this time....
  • Don't let Illinois come out shooting 85-90% in the opening minutes - steal the ball, block a shot, be awake!
  • All three seniors have to play like Seniors!
  • "The French Connection" has to prove that they're better than Illinois' Freshman "Dynamic Duo."
  • You'd love to see AJ come out and hit 5 or 6 3 pointers early.

There is National TV

ESPN, [if they can stay on the air] with Dave Barnett and Tim McCormick

Of course there's WGN 720AM and - Dave Eanet [Mr Wildcat] and David Kaplan will have the call.

Game time is 5:40 PM Central.

Go Cats - Beat 'em All!
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