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Know Thy Opponent: Illinois Fighting Illini

Tomorrow's game is a watershed moment for me and the blog. This will be the first time I will ever see Purdue play in an opposing venue. So far, I have only seen Purdue play basketball at Mackey Arena, the RCA Dome, and Conseco Fieldhouse. Thanks to the generosity of the athletic department at Illinois I will be attended as a member of the media. Hail to the Orange, the fine SBNation site run by the general raconteur and man-about-town Joe Kutsunis, has a season long credential for the Fighting Illini. The athletic department was nice enough to extend that privilege to me for Sunday as well, and I promise it will go much better than the Notre Dame incident.

Keith, our resident Boilermaker Hero will be in attendance as well, though mostly because he loves the ladies of Chambana. He'll have to handle the loud and crazy part of being a Purdue fan in attendance for me. Since Illinois is technically Purdue's closest Big Ten opponent it is my hope that there are a lot of other Purdue fans in attendance as well. We will need them. We only have four road games left and two of them are against the lowest rated team in the conference. It is one of our last chances to show we can win a big game away from Mackey Arena, and therefore secure a good seed.

2009-10 record: 21-15, 10-8 Big Ten

Postseason result: Lost to Dayton 77-71 in NIT quarterfinals

2010-11 record: 16-8, 6-5 Big Ten

Blog representation: Hail to the Orange

Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 91-84

Last Purdue win: 2/20/10 at Purdue 75-65 (Purdue has won 3 straight)

Last IIllinois win: 2/8/09 at Illinois 66-48

Time & TV: 1pm CBS

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Demetri McCamey 24 32.7 4.7 10.4 45.4 2.1 4.4 47.6 3.3 4.5 72.5 0.5 2.9 3.3 6.6 3.0 1.0 0.2 2.0 14.8
Mike Davis 24 31.5 4.8 9.2 52.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.9 2.8 67.6 1.5 5.3 6.8 1.5 1.3 0.8 0.8 2.3 11.5
D.J. Richardson 24 29.5 3.3 7.8 42.6 1.9 4.6 40.9 1.0 1.3 77.4 0.4 1.5 1.9 2.0 1.3 0.8 0.2 2.2 9.5
Mike Tisdale 24 25.2 3.5 7.3 48.9 0.4 1.2 35.7 1.9 2.3 82.1 2.4 4.2 6.6 1.1 1.8 0.5 1.7 3.6 9.4
Brandon Paul 24 21.3 2.9 7.0 41.7 1.3 3.4 36.6 2.0 2.5 77.0 0.5 2.4 2.9 1.9 1.8 0.9 0.4 1.6 9.0
Jereme Richmond 23 22.0 3.5 6.9 50.6 0.0 0.3 12.5 1.0 1.6 62.2 2.0 3.3 5.3 1.7 1.5 0.5 0.5 1.7 8.0
Bill Cole 24 19.9 2.0 3.9 50.0 1.1 2.7 41.5 0.6 0.8 83.3 1.1 1.5 2.7 1.4 0.3 0.6 0.5 1.6 5.7
Meyers Leonard 23 9.3 1.0 2.2 48.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.4 0.6 64.3 0.3 1.1 1.4 0.1 0.8 0.2 0.3 1.7 2.5
Tyler Griffey 21 7.5 0.7 2.0 34.1 0.2 0.5 36.4 0.5 0.7 66.7 0.5 0.8 1.3 0.0 0.6 0.2 0.1 0.9 2.0
Crandall Head 11 4.4 0.4 0.9 40.0 0.1 0.4 25.0 0.4 0.5 66.7 0.0 0.2 0.2 0.5 0.6 0.3 0.0 0.5 1.2
Joseph Bertrand 12 3.7 0.4 0.8 50.0 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.3 0.3 75.0 0.1 0.3 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.1 0.2 0.4 1.1
Kevin Berardini 7 1.9 0.1 0.1 100.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.6 0.9 66.7 0.0 0.3 0.3 0.1 0.3 0.1 0.0 0.3 0.9
Jean Selus 4 1.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.5 50.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.0 0.3 0.0 0.3 0.3

Illinois is probably on the happy side of the Bubble after winning at Minnesota on Thursday night. They have some pretty bad losses to Illinois-Chicago and Indiana, but some good wins over North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Maryland. They also took Texas to overtime, so the talent is there to play with anyone in the country. Ohio State is the only team that has gone into Assembly Hall and won this year, thus making any potential victory by us even bigger.

As expected with their record, they are a very up and down team. We're not quite sure what Illinois team we're going to get. Bruce Webber benched Demetri McCamey, Jereme Richmond, and Mike Tisdale to start the game at Minnesota. It worked too. Mike Davis and McCamey each had 17 points in the win. McCamey currently leads the NCAA in assists at 6.6 per game. He is also scoring 14.8 per game. It is clear that he is the player that makes the Fighting Illini go. In the game in West Lafayette last season he dished out 16 assists, but only scored six points. It looks like we can survive him scoring or distributing, but not both. McCamey has been going along with the Illini theme of being up and down, thanks to mysterious outside forces.

Tisdale is another key player because he can play inside out like JaJuan Johnson. The 7'1" center has been known to shoot the three about as often as JJ and he is also as flaky of a rebounder as well. Tisdale doesn't need to be as consistent of a scorer because the Illini spread the ball around well. Six players average at least eight points per game, mostly off of McCamey's distribution. This will be a game in which our team defense is put to the test because anyone Illinois puts on the floor can score.

Fortunately, they don't have one player that we're going to stupidly double team like Jared Sullinger. They are also a team that goes in streaks. The loss at Indiana is a prime example. They shot just 33% from the field, 25% from three, and had 12 turnovers. As I have stated before, their loss was more a result of Illinois playing some terrible, frightened basketball rather than Indiana playing well. Tisdale had a chance to shoot for the win but chose to throw the ball out of bounds instead of shoot. That tells me a lot about this team. For as balanced as they are, they lack the courage to take the necessary shot to win in a close game.

We should have an edge in that they primarily play a seven man rotation. Meyers Leonard and Tyler Griffey play sparingly, but D.J. Richardson, Bill Cole, and Brandon Paul join Tisdale, McCamey, Davis, and Richmond in the main rotation. Davis, Cole, and Tisdale are the main interior players, but Tisdale and Davis each average less than seven rebounds per game.

Ultimately, I think this game depends a lot on which Illinois team shows up. The Illini have looked fantastic at home, giving up about 65 points per game. They are a flaky defensive team that can go cold offensively though. I will defer to Keith's breakdown from Thursday, since he has seen them play a lot more than I:

#1 - Demetri McCamey - I've been on his train for years. I've been saying he's arguable one of the best PG's in college hoops and he is certainly proving that so with a struggling Illini squad this year. The kid is unconscious from behind the arc and can distribute the ball like Jenna Jameson. Unfortunately for the Illini, he's either on or off. Let's hope Kelsey Barlow can guard with his feet and keep him under wraps. I'm not sure if LewJack should be on McCamey or not, the height difference worries me. If Barlow moves to Mike Davis, Smooge will do a great job keeping McCamey's NBA-esque talents on the down-low.

#2 - Poor man's Rob - Mike Davis - I've never liked Mike Davis, he's the on again-off again, in again-out again, up and then down again Sneetch on the Beach; we never quite know if he'll show up with one star or two. He is the poor man's Rob. He's their second best player and can definitely fill up the highlight reel with alley-oop slams however, his inconsistencies will shine with our defense. Unfortunately for me (us), I can't think of someone that matches up well with him. Mike Davis is very athletic and likes to attack the rim. I'm banking that his 16-footer will be off on Sunday, and that a rotation of Patrick Bade, Travis Carroll, and  Barlow will slow him down.

#3 - Jereme Richmond - I don't like him. The Illini fans scream and shout that he's the next Scottie Pippen, but I disagree. He is good I admit, but I just don't like him. He fills in the holes and does what needs to be done. He can score in the post, knock down the 18-footer's and can rebound pretty well. He's still developing and could be guarded by a couple of boiler's, I see him matched up with D.J. Byrd. In two years, he should be great, but I still wont like him.

#4 - D.J. Richardson - This kid is one hell of a guard. I like his play style, very similar to our very own Ryne Smith. He's a decent on the ball defender and can knock down three's like Steve Kerr. As long as Ryne can navigate the tree's and dodge Quasimoto's hump, we should be ok. I also see LewJack spending some time on Richardson, his speed and size pair up nicely with this shooter.

#5 - Mike Tisdale - The only "7-footer" I know that slouches to 5'11". He started the season as JJ's #1 adversary in my book. (Sullinger was unproven in my eyes back then.) Unfortunately for him, while he was packing down the Cheeto's, JJ was lifting weights and watching films, becoming the best big man in college basketball. We still have to look out for him. He can block shots, fill the lane, and has a range just like JJ. 

Honorable Mention - Bill Cole & Brandon Paul - These guys contribute, however, have yet to show that they are contenders. I don't see much more than their everyday, average "I'm a Div-1-Baller" games this Sunday. Brandon Paul is speedy and can drive the lane similar to LewJack. Bill Cole is the poor man's Mike Davis with a Howitzer for a 3-ball, somehow he still shoots the damn thing around 40% from behind the arc. We should look out for his mid-range jumper. 

Now, even more briefly, as I have to drive JordanLegend to class in 10 minutes, this is what we have to do.

#1 - Don't make stupid mistakes. We need to prove that we can win on the road. 

#2 - Don't fall for the infamous Illini ball screen gag. It's killed us in the past. 

#3 - Play our day-to-day defense and do what we do best. We need to keep in mind that this Illini team loves to launch the 3-ball, so extending our defense out to the arc and beyond will be a necessity. (With that said, this Illini team loves to defend the 3-ball, so an extra pass or two will hopefully get us a better shot on offense.)

And like always,

#4 - Feed the post. Although Tisdale is long and stuff, that doesn't mean that he can stop what JJ has been working on this season. With a relatively weak showing during the IU game, watch for JJ to come out with a sense of uncultured radiance. I'd assume Webby has watched that footage and will see that triple-teaming JJ will eventually slow this Boiler squad down. That is, until Painter calls a time out and makes things all better.

#5 - Feed #33. Remember the days of Jeff Jordan? I sure do. If you don't let me enlighten you. The Illini would be nearing the end of a close game and Demetri McCamey would make a mistake on defense and blow the lead. From then on, every time that Weber could sub out McCamey on the defensive end, he would. McCamey is an offensive threat, that's his first priority. Fortunately for us, his defensive skills have only picked up a little bit. Jordan was a much better defensive option for Weber, again, fortunately for us, Jordan brought his talents to "South beach-ish." As I assume either Paul, Richardson, or McCamey would be on E`Twaun Moore, none of them have the talents it takes to stop his offensive onslaught.