Connect with us


Can Illinois Basketball Shine at MSG Again?



Can Illinois Basketball Shine at MSG Again?
Dec 2, 2023; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Luke Goode (10) celebrates with guard Justin Harmon (4) and forward Dain Dainja (42) during a time out during the first half against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Jersey Mike's Arena. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Illinois Basketball team started their three-game East Coast trip with a dominant win over Rutgers. The second leg likely won’t be quite so easy. For the second year in a row, Brad Underwood is taking his squad to the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden. There the Illini will match up against last year’s Cinderella,  Florida Atlantic. The Eagles brought back their top four scorers from that Final Four team last year and have already picked up wins against Texas A&M and Virginia Tech.

1. Boa Constrictor

FAU is an old, experienced, tough team. They know how they want to play and won’t get easily knocked out of their game plan. FAU has a variety of ways to attack and boasts the 7th-ranked offense in the country per Kenpom. They currently have three players averaging over 13 points per game. The Owls are also top 40 in the country’s FG%, 3P%, and points per game. All five players on the court work together.

Illinois will have to squeeze this team out of their comfort zone. Of their top seven players per minute played, the tallest behind center Vladislav Golden is 6’8″. The Illini will have a size advantage at almost every position. Illinois will have to use this size to contain the Owl’s perimeter attack and restrict ball movement as much as possible. In their upset win over Texas A&M, FAU made 16 threes on 30 attempts. For comparison, the most threes attempted by Penn State against the Illini in their three games was 28 in the game in Happy Valley.

2. Battering Ram

On the other end, the Illini have to make use of their size advantage and attack the interior of the Owl’s defense. The Aggies got 20 offensive rebounds against FAU and went +16 overall. The Aggies also outscored the Owls by 12 in the paint. The best way to keep FAU under wraps offensively will be to dominate possessions with offensive rebounds. Due to their size, FAU will have to send extra bodies to the glass, which could limit their transition opportunities, forcing them to face the Illini’s stout halfcourt defense often.

The Owls know this and will be prepared to pack the paint. Using Marcus Domask to attack the smaller guards in the mid and low post could be a good way to generate paint pressure. The Illini will also need to be more ready for post-traps than they were against Marquette.

3. Illinois Basketball continues to build its resume.

The Illini missed a great shot at a bullet point right at the top of the resume dropping the Marquette game. FAU will likely dominate the American conference, and after a shocking loss to Bryant, the Owls look like the top 15 teams they came into the year billed as. Currently, the Owls sit at number 11 in the NET, making this a Quad 1 opportunity on a neutral floor. If the Illini don’t want to end up in the same position as last year, they need to win these games.

This should be a great clash of styles. FAU’s offensive intricacy against the brute force of will of the Illini. If the Illini execute defensively, they give themselves the best chance in a low-scoring affair.

Thank you for reading Armchair Illini. For more Illinois Athletics and Big Ten content from Armchair Illini, follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email our Publisher at Please use our Seatgeek code for 20$ off your purchase on ARMCHAIRILLINOIS. It is because of your support that we have become one of the fastest-growing Illinois media outlets around!

Brian is a former sports writer for the Daily Illini who has been covering Illinois Basketball for over 5 years. Brian is now the lead basketball reporter for Armchair Illini, the go-to source for Illinois athletics news. He has had work published on Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, USA Today and more.