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Illinois Basketball Looks to Bounce Back vs Valparaiso



Jan 24, 2023; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Terrence Shannon Jr. (0) reacts after scoring during the first half against the Ohio State Buckeyes at State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

After a bruising loss to #4 ranked Marquette at home, the Illinois Men’s Basketball team gets the chance to end the week on a high note against Valparaiso. Valparaiso comes in as a 26-point underdog. The Beacons come in as the 336th team in the country per Kenpom, one spot below Eastern Illinois, who the Illini boat raced by 28 points. Perhaps the most notable thing about Valpo is that their head coach is Roger Powell. Powell, or “The Reverend” as he became known in his time in Champaign, was a member of the legendary 2005 national runner up team. After spending the last couple years under Mark Few at Gonzaga, Powell made the leap to run his own program. While the Illini shouldn’t make his return a successful one, the crowd will surely give him a warm welcome.

1. Everyone Eats

In the Marquette loss the Illini basically played seven guys. This will likely be the case for most big games, that’s not just an Illinois thing. However, in a game like this it would be nice to see the depth pieces get some confidence. The Illini have a lot of talented players on the roster, and any day could be someone’s day against a good matchup. When that day comes, it would be best to have everyone feeling as good as possible. With the score likely not a factor past the first five minutes or so, getting run and shots for Dain Dainja, Justin Harmon and Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn should be a priority.

2. Paint Presence

Against Marquette the Illini shot 33 three-point shots. While their defensive scheme is vulnerable to allowing open jump shots and the Illini made 11 of them, getting outscored by 20+ in the paint shouldn’t be acceptable. Valpo provides a great opportunity to get right in that area. In their last two games, the Beacons have shot under 40% from the field. With as many misses as they will have there will be plenty of chances to attack in transition, where the Illini can find easier looks in the paint.

3. Turn It Down

The main plotline after the Marquette game was the 15 Illinois turnovers. Many of these were unforced, with Terrence Shannon Jr. and Coleman Hawkins combining for 10 of the 15. The Illini will have a lot of possessions, so keeping the turnovers down to under 10 would be a nice step. The Illini must continue to hone their decision making. There is still a good amount of time and games between now and the conference schedule. For this Illinois team to reach their ceiling, they will need to learn to play fast and aggressive without being careless. Playing more through Ty Rodgers and Marcus Domask in the half court could help lessen the burden on those stars.

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.