So, How We Doin'? Maryland
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We should just get it out of the way at the start here: before the win a few weeks ago, we had lost four straight to Maryland in Champaign. And we've lost three straight at Maryland. We did win a "road game" against Maryland in 2019, but that game, for some reason, was played in New York City (the game where Tevian Jones went off for like 21 points).
So yes, Maryland is bad, but they have this weird thing over us. Friends of mine will say that the weird thing is "length" - Turgeon recruited as if the winner of each game would be decided by total team wingspan - but whatever it is, it bothers us. To the point that we lost four straight here and three straight there. In fact, I believe Brad Underwood's only two wins over Maryland were the Tevian Jones game I mentioned above and the Kofi-dominated game on January 6th.
Speaking of "Kofi-dominated", remember this stat I came up with after the Maryland game?
If Kofi was +28, then in the 12 minutes where he was on the bench, Maryland outscored Illinois by 16. It was some Omar Payne (5 minutes), some BBV (2 minutes), and some with Coleman Hawkins playing the 5. More or less every lineup we discussed back in June.
It doesn't work exactly like this, but let's pretend like it does. Last night's game delivered this message:
- An Illini team without Kofi Cockburn would lose to Maryland by 16.
- An Illini team with Kofi Cockburn would beat Maryland by 28.
Actually, both numbers would increase if he played 40 minutes. Let me use my "I'm just really bad a math" shrug and apply the minutes to those numbers. He played for 70% of the game and sat for 30% of the game while Trent played all 40 minutes. Let's assume Kofi played 40 minutes and project the score based on the minutes he played. I'll grab my calculator.
If Maryland outscored Illinois by 16 in the 12 minutes where Kofi was on the bench, then over 40 minutes, that would be (beep beep bip boop beep) 53 points. If Kofi doesn't play last night, Maryland 96, Illinois 43.
If Illinois outscored Maryland by 28 in the 28 minutes that Kofi played, then that math is very easy. If he played 40 minutes Illinois would win by (beep beep bip boop beep) 40. So if Kofi plays all 40 minutes last night, Illinois 90, Maryland 50.
I know, I know - it's bad math because nobody plays 40 minutes every game. But I'm trying to make a point here.
That point: Without Kofi Cockburn, Illinois might not be a Tournament team this year. With Kofi Cockburn, Illinois could get to the Final Four.
We're off to a great start! This is our easiest remaining road game per KenPom and is the third-easiest game remaining on the schedule... yet here I am listing that we would have lost by 53 if not for Kofi and talking about how Maryland owns us. You would think, at some point, that I would write one of these SHWD posts like I'm a fan of the #17 team in the country.
But it's Thursday night and I remain in the same mood as Monday night. For whatever reason, Marquette, Arizona, and Purdue still haunt me. Opportunities for resume-building wins and we lost by one, lost by 4, and lost in 2OT. And so now, as I sit here, Indiana probably has a better tournament resume than we do.
OK, now that's ridiculous, brain. Stop it. Stop it right now. I'm not even sure Indiana has a single road win while we're still the roadkill champs. Let me look this up.
We still have a better resume than Indiana, but it's not a very comfortable lead. They have two Quad 1 wins (Purdue and Ohio State) while we only have one (Iowa). But we have three Q2 wins (K-State, Michigan, and Minnesota) while Indiana only has one (Notre Dame on a neutral court). If you're curious why Notre Dame is a Q2 win for Indiana and a Q3 win for us, it's because Indiana beat them on a neutral court.
So yes, we're still a little bit ahead of Indiana. But I'm still pretty bitter that they beat Purdue and we did not. I just need another Q1 win and then I'll calm down. I hate it when everyone else gets to make a statement and we do not.
I need to focus on this game. What's the spread? Maybe there's not a spread yet. Let me look up the spread.
8.5? Not sure I can see 8.5 here ("of course you can't, Robert, you apparently hate us now"). 8.5? Man, that seems like a lot. There's no way I can predict that we're going to cover that.
So now I need to figure out if I think we can win this one. Maryland has our number and their length bothers us. But we're also really good. We played 34 poor minutes at Nebraska, flipped a switch, and won by 10. We played 34 poor minutes against Michigan (only led by one), flipped a switch, and won by 15. We played a very solid game against Purdue but lost in double-OT. And now we head to Maryland.
Because of that switch, I can't predict a loss. Even if it's a close game with four minutes left, I think we'll flip the switch and win. But I don't think I can say we'll cover 8.5. Feels like this one will be a game up until the bitter end.
Illinois 80, Maryland 77