User ID
Password
  Forgot User ID
or Register Today!
VegasInsider.com
Follow Us on Facebook Follow Us on Twitter Follow Us on Google+ VI Mobile Scores and Betting Odds
Home
NFL
NBA
NHL
MLB
NCAA FB
NCAA BK
Horses
Golf
Auto
Soccer
More
Betting Tools

 
Illini head to Indy needing to win and win again

New Sportsbook.ag customers: Make your 1st bet, get your 2nd bet free, 100%, winnings paid in cash.
Join Now

Already have an account? Click here to view new Exclusive Rewards!

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.

Advertisement
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: https://twitter.com/davidmercerap

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2015
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved

  
HEADLINES
Calipari impressed by summer workouts
Henderson aims for big role with NC St.
KU, Indiana, UCLA head Maui event
Illinois G Abrams out for 2nd season
Memphis' Nichols transfers to UVA
USM, Tyndall committed violations
Arkansas players arrested on forgery
South Carolina blending classes again
Purdue's Jacquil Taylor gets season back
MORE HEADLINES
 
Why Buy Picks From VegasInsider.com
NCAA BK College Basketball Handicapper Sports Picks Records
VegasInsider.com Gold Membership
2014 CBK SEASON PICK RECORDS
Money Leaders
Handicapper Money
Joe Williams + 927
Chip Chirimbes + 865
Brian Edwards + 764
Last 7 Day Leaders
Handicapper Money
No Games Last 7 Days  
   
   
Percentage Leaders
Handicapper Pct
Chip Chirimbes 54 %
Scott Pritchard 54 %
Stephen Nover 53 %
Guaranteed Leaders
Handicapper Money
Kevin Rogers + 1337
Brian Edwards + 1195
John Fisher + 994
Over-Under Leaders
Handicapper Money
Kyle Hunter + 792
Antony Dinero + 700
Andy Iskoe + 654
Member Leaders
Handicapper Money
The SportsBoss + 612
Joe Williams + 248
Jim Feist + 183
MORE PICK RECORDS
  
corner graphic
With a VI Gold Membership, you can SAVE 10% off a Live Odds subscription, SAVE 20% off Daily Pick packages, and receive access to up to 1,000 Member Plays each month!
VI Gold Membership