First and foremost, congratulations need to go out to Chris Collins.
The new Northwestern head coach picked up his first Big Ten win and his first win over a ranked team on Sunday evening, as Northwestern knocked off No. 23 Illinois in Evanston, 49-43. It wasn’t pretty — nothing that Northwestern does this season will be pretty — but a win is a win is a win.
But I’d hesitate before using this as proof that Collins is going to have success at Northwestern for one reason and one reason only: I just don’t think Illinois is all that good.
I’ve now had a chance to watch them play three times over the course of the last two weeks, and I’m just not buying that this is a team that deserves to be ranked in the top 25. This group is like a poor man’s Ohio State. They’re tough defensively, forcing opponents into difficult shots without fouling and doing a good job of clearing the defensive glass.
But offensively, Illinois is a disaster. Essentially, this is a team that relies on two shot-first, penetrating guards that are inconsistent at best from three. They don’t have a low-post presence, either, which puts even more pressure on their guards to be able to score.
Tracy Abrams and Rayvonte Rice are both talents, but are they talented enough to actually carry this Illinois team to the NCAA tournament? I’m not sure.