VI Mobile Scores and Betting OddsVI Mobile Scores and Betting Odds Be Social
Betting Tools

Illini head to Indy needing to win and win again

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - If Illinois wants to be a part of March Madness, it almost certainly has to win at least a couple of games at the Big Ten tournament this week - maybe more.

Don't try to get Illini coach John Groce to look beyond the opener Thursday morning against Indiana (17-14, 7-11 Big Ten) in Indianapolis.

''It's us and them,'' he said Tuesday. ''That's our focus.''

The Illini (18-13) have been playing perhaps their best basketball of the season over their last eight games. Illinois is 5-3 in those games. That includes wins in four of the last five, and road wins over Penn State, Minnesota, then-No. 18 Michigan State and Iowa, which was ranked 24th at the time.

''Really with the exception of their game with Michigan last week, they have been playing great basketball over the last month,'' Indiana coach Tom Crean said.

That game with Michigan last week was a blowout loss at home. And it's just one of the ugly spots on Illinois' resume.

There's also the 3-6 home record during Big Ten play. And the eight-game conference losing streak.

What's changed since Illinois went night after night without a win?

One of the big things was the addition of freshman guard Kendrick Nunn to the starting lineup.

Nunn's eight starts this season have been those eight key games down the stretch, when Illinois bounced back from a team that might not even make the NIT to one that could still play its way into the NCAA tournament with two or three wins in Indianapolis. Four wins, of course, would mean the Illini are Big Ten tournament champs and automatically into the NCAAs.

As a starter, Nunn has averaged 12.2 points and 2.1 assists a game.

''He started out not playing a whole lot, and just kind of battled and battled and battled, and figured it out,'' Groce said.

Crean compared Nunn to former Hoosier Victor Oladipo, saying he thinks Nunn is more offensively advanced than Oladipo was as a freshman.

''Kendrick Nunn with more minutes provides just a little bit more explosiveness with their game,'' Crean said.

Illinois also has won with defense, up and down the lineup. The Illini have given up 55.4 points a game over the last eight. Take out that 84-53 loss to Michigan and they're allowing only 51.3.

Crean said the Illini are taking balls away from opponents and controlling the tempo. But, lately, it's just plain tough to get an easy shot on Illinois.

''The bottom line is they are making it hard for you get to get good looks,'' Crean said.


Follow David Mercer on Twitter:

Copyright 2018 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written
consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

Edwards: Sweet 16 - South Regional
Nelson: Sweet 16 - West Regional
Intertops: Thursday's S16 Best Bets
Edwards: Sweet 16 Primer Thursday's Sweet 16 Action
Lawrence: Sweet 16 Angles
Bookmaker: Teams to Watch - Sweet 16
Nelson: Sweet 16 - East Regional
Edwards: Sweet 16 - Midwest Regional
Why Buy Picks From
NCAA BK College Basketball Handicapper Sports Picks Records
NCAA BK Hot Streaks
13-0 L13, 24-2 Run, 8-1 G-Plays
3-0 L3, 15-5 L20, 26-9 Run, +6,458
3-0 L3, 15-4 Run, 7-2 L9 G-Plays
10-2 G-Play Run, 11-6 L17 Picks
16-6 L22 Picks, 4-0 L4 Totals
9-2 L11 Guaranteed Plays
7-3 L2 Days, +3,516 This Year
5-1 L2 Days, 20-9 L29 Totals
2-0 LN, 21-9 Streak, 6-2 L8 G-Plays
7-1 L8 Guaranteed Plays
4-1 L5, 8-3 Picks, 16-7 G-Plays
14-5 L19 G-Plays, 31-16 L47 Picks
6-3 L9, 9-4 L13, 60-32 Streak
7-2 L9 G-Plays, 27-15 L42 Picks
22-10 L32 Picks, 13-5 L18 G-Plays
7-3 L10 Totals, 15-8 L23 G-Plays
+3,678 Totals This Year
23-11 L34 Guaranteed Plays
+3,694 CBK Over/Unders TY
5-1 L6 Guaranteed Plays
3-1 Monday, +2,200 This Year
NCAA College Basketball Expert Sports Picks - NCAA Tournament - Duke Blue Devils vs. Syracuse Orange
Money Leaders
Handicapper Money
Bruce Marshall + 6458
Antony Dinero + 3516
Kyle Hunter + 2862
Last 7 Day Leaders
Handicapper Money
Jim Feist + 1300
Bruce Marshall + 1045
Chip Chirimbes + 858
Percentage Leaders
Handicapper Pct
Joe Nelson 58 %
Marc Lawrence 57 %
Bruce Marshall 57 %
Guaranteed Leaders
Handicapper Money
Bruce Marshall + 2711
Jimmy Boyd + 1460
Micah Roberts + 1364
Over-Under Leaders
Handicapper Money
Antony Dinero + 6238
Micah Roberts + 3694
Kyle Hunter + 3678
Member Leaders
Handicapper Money
Antony Dinero + 3934
Bruce Marshall + 3432
Micah Roberts + 1479
corner graphic
With a VI Gold Membership, you can SAVE 20% off Daily Pick packages, SAVE 10% off a Live Odds Pro subscription, and receive access to up to 1,000 Member Plays each month!
VI Gold Membership