College basketball action on Friday evening and the Big East Conference will grapple with the Big 10 Conference as the Depaul Blue Demons duke it out with the Illinois Fighting Illini at State Farm Center in Champaign, Illinois. The Blue Demons enter this contest off an 81-57 home win over Delaware State, while the Illini come in off a 77-74 home win over Tenn-Martin. Illinois is 7-2 in this series, but the teams haven’t met since 1957.
Blue Demons Bounce Back From Loss To Notre Dame
Depaul started their season with a 72-58 loss at home to Notre Dame, but they were able to bounce back with a solid 81-57 home win over Delaware State. Depaul was just 9-23 last year overall and just 2-16 in league play, so any wins at the beginning of the year are a plus for a team that is trying to build confidence. Gone from last year’s team is Billy Garrett, who was 2nd on the team in scoring at 14.9 ppg. Eli Cain led the team in scoring with 15.6 ppg last year, but he doesn’t have much help and it lo9oks like it will be another long season for the Blue Demons, who haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2003/04 when they were members of Conference U.S.A. Tre’Darius McCallum led the attack against Delaware State with 17 points, while Max Strus had 15, Eli Cain had 11 and Devin Gage had 10 to round out the double-digit scores in the game.
Depaul was not a very good offensive team last year as they ranked 279th in scoring at 68.9 ppg, while also ranking 254th in shooting at 43.0% and 287th in three-point shooting at 32.6%. In the win over Delaware state, the hit just 42.3% of their shots overall and just 26.3% from long range, so they are still not a good shooting team. The defense played well in the win over the Hornets as they allowed them to hit just 31.21% of their shots overall, including just 23.5% from long range and they also won the rebounding battle 52-34. Last year, the Blue Demons were 234th in points allowed, giving up 74.6 ppg, while also ranking 308th in defensive FG% (46.6%) and 284th in three-point defense (36.1%).
Illini Squeak By Tennessee-Martin
The Illinois Fighting Illini went 20-15 last year, but it was not enough to save the job of Jim Croce. In steps Brad Underwood, who is known for teaching his players toughness, an identity, culture, and a consistent offensive system. He has never missed the NCAA Tournament as a coach, but can he get there this year with a very young team that includes freshman Trent Frazier, Mark Smith, Da’Monte Williams, and Greg Eboigbodin, who all are expected to get plenty of playing time this year? This team will be far better next year than this year, but they should still not be that bad this year. The Illini are 2-0 to start the year and they come in off a hard-fought 77-74 win over Tennessee-Martin. The Illini hit just 44.8% of their shots overall, including just 28.6% from long range, but their defense played well in the game as they allowed the Skyhawks to hit just 43.5% of their shots and they forced 19 turnovers as well.
Leron Black averaged just 8.1 ppg last year, but he has now put up 18.5 ppg through two games after leading the Illini over the Skyhawks with 23 points. Mark Smith was second with 13 points, while Michael Finke had 12 and Aaron Jordan had 10 to round out the double-digit scorers in the game. Last year, the Illini ranked 21`4th in scoring at 71.7 ppg, while also ranking 162nd in shooting (44.5%) and 8th in three-point shooting (36.9%). At the defensive end of the court, they ranked 93rd in points allowed at 69.1 ppg, while also ranking 161st in defensive FG% (43.4%) and 93rd in three-point defense (33.4%).
- 1-6 ATS in their last seven games following a straight up win
- 0-4 ATS in their last four vs. the Big Ten
- 5-2 ATS in their last seven non-conference games
- 4-1 ATS in their last five vs. the Big East
Both of these teams could be in for long seasons this year as both are rebuilding. The Blue Demons come in off a nice win over Delaware State, while the Illini are off a tough battle with Tennessee-Martin. Illinois is the better team here and while they are young, they are still talented, while the Blue Demons are not all that talented. The Illini play solid defense, especially at home and the Blue Demons just won’t be able to score enough in this game to keep it close. Go with the Illini here, especially since the Blue Demons are 8-23 ATS in their last 31 non-conference games.