Illinois shot just 29 percent from the floor Tuesday night against Iowa in a 63-55 loss on the road. Haven’t we seen this before from the Illini? It sure seems like it.
During the Illiniois’ stretch of six losses in seven games earlier in the season, a shooting slump was a major factor to blame. Included in that stretch was a 37 percent shooting night in loss to Michigan, 35 percent in loss to Minnesota, another 35 percent in loss to Wisconsin, and 39 percent in loss to Northwestern.
Tuesday’s struggles began with the guard play. Against Iowa, the trio of Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson, and Tracy Abrams combined to shoot 11-of-39 from the floor. The struggles radiated out from there. The rest of the team was just 7-of-24.
Added to that, Illinois does not rebound the ball well, ranking 201st in the nation, so a poor shooting night only hurts the Illini more than the fact that they aren’t making shots. They are still solidly in the NCAA tournament at this point, but their seeding could be affected. According to NBC’s projections, the Illini are a seven seed and could now slip back to an eight or nine.
As for Iowa, the Hawkeyes are still a longsho. But helped along by losses by other bubble teams, there could be a chance. Coach Fran McCaffery’s team has quality wins over Iowa State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and now Illinois with an RPI ranking of 86 and a strength of schedule of 118. Their final regular season game against Nebraska is a must-win (as was the game they lost earlier in the season) and they will likely need to win a few games in the Big Ten tournament.
Southern Miss suffered a bad loss Tuesday against Marshall, which will shift them toward the wrong side of the bubble. Teams like Maryland, Baylor, and Ole Miss all have recent bad losses. For as much losing as there has been, it wouldn’t be surprising to see who is the “last team standing” on the bubble.