GameNight: Illinois vs Tulsa (South Padre)

November 29th, 2008
Nov 29 2008 - 8:00pm


Preview & Prediction: By Evan Dorey






-- Evan Dorey's game previews & rankings are based on Elo Ratings. Elo Ratings are fairly simple, all teams are assigned an initial number of points, which is the same for all teams, eliminating preseason bias. Then, as the season progresses, when a team wins it gains points, and when it loses it drops points. The amount of points that are gained or lost depend on the level of the opponent (beating a cupcake gets you little, beating #1 will be a big increase), the scoring margin of the game (which is capped), and the game’s location. To take a look at Evan's College Basketball Elo Ratings, visit his website or blog where he discusses the rankings along with other statistical observations about big games and interesting teams.


While there are more than 110 games scheduled for today, many of the prime matchups in the big preseason tournaments are not on until Sunday, so today I’ll talk about an interesting, but not particularly high-profile game, #50 Tulsa (4-1) facing #17 Illinois (5-0) in South Padre Island, TX, in the final of the South Padre Island Invitational.


The unbeaten Illini picked up a very solid win at Vanderbilt last week, and opened the tournament by surviving a tight game with Kent St in overtime. Tulsa picked up a convincing loss at Oklahoma St., but rebounded in this tournament to beat Texas A&M by 11 to make the final.


These are two very solid defensive teams, and given that neither is particularly speedy, a game in the 60s should be expected. Tulsa’s defensive strength rests on good defense from three, as they certainly showed in holding the Aggies to just 2-17 from behind the arc. The Hurricane are a decent defensive force inside as well, as they do a good job contesting interior shots and are decent in pulling down defensive boards. Illinois has defended shots well, but their perimeter defense to date has been spotty, and has not been as effective overall as the Hurricane’s. Illinois is good at keeping their opponents off the free throw line, though given Tulsa’ s immense struggles there, this may not be that  large a benefit.


Offensively, Illinois has a slight edge, mostly due to their solid three point shooting, along with their ability to gain a possession edge through preventing turnovers and grabbing offensive boards. They tend to focus their attack heavily inside, and use a lot of passes, leading the nation in assists/basket. Tulsa also feature a more inside oriented-attack, but they are on the whole better shooters from the field. However, the Hurricane have a number of glaring offensive weaknesses that can be exploited. They turn the ball over a fair amount, though Illinois hasn’t forced a lot of turnovers so far this season. They are also among the worst in the nation in racking up assists and in free throw shooting, falling below 55% from the line so far.


Ben Uzoh and Jerome Jordan are an inside-outside combination for Tulsa, one of whom has led in the team in scoring in every game so far this year. The 6-3 Uzoh has shot very well so far this season, and while he likely won’t stay at his current 61.7 eFG%, he will continue to be a very solid shooter from two and three for the Hurricanes, while at the same time running the team from the point. 7-footer Jerome Jordan has yet to play over 25 minutes in a game this year, but he is effective when he does play, shooting over 61% from the field and grabbing a handful of assists and blocks, along with a pretty solid free throw percentage for a big man.


Illinois have been getting important contributions from their own inside big men, Mike Davis in particular. Davis is the Big Ten’s leading rebounder so far this season, and has posted three double-doubles.  His playing time has tripled from his first season, and while he has shown good form against a fairly soft schedule, whether he can accomplish this against some better defending is a big question. Outside support has come from senior Trent Meachem, who is a strong shooting guard and has started out on a solid clip.  7-1 Mike Tisdale hasn’t had a huge impact yet, but with that kind of size, a big breakout is always possible.


I would expect a fairly tight, defensive contest, with Tulsa just falling short. They seem to have weaknesses that are pretty significant on offense, and I’m not entirely convinced their defense will be as solid inside as it has been in the early going. Either way, the winner will have a decent win on their resume come at-large bid time.


Winner: Illinois        Margin: 5-10