Preview: Illinois III

Or: Tim’s foray into tempo-free statistics.

Michigan takes on the Illinois Fightin’ Illini tonight at 6:30 PM (EDT) in Indianapolis. The second-round Big Ten Tourney game is important to Big Dance seeding, though the first-round win over Iowa has likely solidified a tournament bid. Wolverines fans can see the game on the Big Ten Network.

Tempo-Free and efficiency comparison (if you need an explanation of what any of these things mean, head to KenPom’s website):

Michigan v. Illinois: National Ranks
Category Michigan Illinois Advantage
Mich eFG% v. Illinois eFG% D 132 9 II
Mich eFG% D v. Illinois eFG% 194 88 II
Mich TO% v. Illinois Def TO% 16 93 M
Mich Def TO% v. Illinois TO% 136 90 I
Mich OReb% v. Illinois DReb% 280 144 II
Mich DReb% v. Illinois OReb% 190 252 M
Mich FTR v. Illinois Opp FTR 317 12 IIII
Mich Opp FTR v. Illinois FTR 29 344 MMMM
Mich AdjO v. Illinois AdjD 44 4 I
Mich AdjD v. Illinois AdjO 77 97 M

Differences of more than 100 places in the rankings garner two-letter advantages, differences of more than 200 get a third. The stats are only through the regular season, where KenPom’s data comes to an end.

When Last We Met…

DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris (though he was Michigan’s lone scoring threat in the second half, more on this later) both struggled against a lineup boasting size much better than the Wolverines (The Illini are, on average, an inch and a alf taller than Michigan. This is a bigger deal than it sounds). The since-marginalized Kelvin Grady and Laval-Lucas Perry kept Michigan in the game in Assembly Hall. Michigan’s offense, entering its “dark period” of the season, managed almost no second half offense, and the Wolverines lost the game, despite holding a halftime lead.

Since Last We Met…

Michigan went from “damn good nonconference team” to “meh” conference team, going 6-9 the rest of the regular season until the BTT tourney win against Iowa. The offense (and, for quite some time, defense) went dormant for much of the year, but has reemerged recently, to give Michigan fans some hope that John Beilein may indeed be all he’s cracked up to be. DeShawn Sims, crappy the last time these two teams met, has been ridiculously good in the last two games.

The Illini went 8-6 in the remainder of their conference schedule, though their biggest win was a home win against Purdue back in the beginning of February. They have lost their last two games (they had a bye in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament), and come into this game having gone cold, especially considering they have choked away late leads in two games against Penn State in their last 5. Also, Chester Frazier got hurt, which is very important.


Michigan is in the tournament at this point, barring absolute catastrophe in other conferences’ tournaments. However, this game is certainly important for improving their seeding. Michigan went through a rough stretch at the beginning of the conference season, but they’ve mostly snapped out of it, excepting the horrifically-officiated game at Iowa. Illinois has been solid all year, but they’ve fallen off somewhat towards the end of the year. This is where the important stuff kicks in:

Chester Frazier, an offensive non-factor but ridiculously important piece for the Illini defense, got hurt this week, and is not expected to play against Michigan. Though Manny wasn’t the primary liability for Michigan against Illinois the second time around (DeShawn was), if he’s freed up at all, he’ll draw an additional defender away from his teammates, giving all of them more open looks if Frazier doesn’t play, or even if he’s limited in any significant way. This is very good for Michigan.

Taking into account all the above factors, in addition to the fact that home court advantage for Illinois (and just about every team in the Big Ten) is far more important to their team than is home court advantage for Michigan, I think the Wolverines have a pretty good shot. All that said, I still am not confident about the Wolverines leaving Conseco with a win.

KenPom doesn’t make predictions for the conference tournaments (primarily because they aren’t listed on the teams’ schedules). To Vegas, Michigan is a single-digit dog – 2.5 points at last check – at the neutral site, and that prediction sounds pretty good (accuracy-wise, not what I’m hoping for) to me.

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