How They Are Doing So Far:
Illinois won their opener against Evansville. Then the schedule got tougher. The Illini lost 88-80 at home to Georgetown before heading to Hawaii for the Maui Jim Maui Invitational. They deserve a little credit for only losing to Gonzaga by a score of 84-78, but then they lost to Iowa State and Xavier and came home without a win on the islands. Illinois only had one game between the Maui Invitational and the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and that was against lowly Mississippi Valley State.
Last Time Out:
The Illini got a much needed second win of the season against MVSU. The starters struggled shooting the basketball against the Delta Devils, with the exception of Trent Frazier. Once again he led the way with 16 points. The good news for Coach Brad Underwood is that he may have found some depth with Kipper Nichols, Da’Monte Williams and Alan Griffin all reaching double figures in the scoring column. While the win was nice, overall it was not the performance Illini fans were hoping for. Notre Dame has not been tested as much as Illinois and that may be the only good positive for the Illini heading into this contest.
Who To Watch:
Trent Frazier averaged 12.5 points per game as a freshman last season and is well on his way to boosting that average closer to 20 points per game. So far this year he is averaging 17.6 points, 3.4 assists and 2.2 steals. Frazier is extremely quick and he will use that speed to get to the basket, but he is also a capable outside shooter who has knocked down 45.0 percent of his attempts from long range this year. When the defense backs off and are worried about his speed, Frazier can make them pay.
Who Else To Watch:
When the Illini played well against Gonzaga in Maui, Frazier led the team with 29 points. However, the frontcourt got a consistent scorer in freshman Giorgi Bezhanishvili. The 6-9 forward has not scored in double figures since that game and is consistently in foul trouble, but Illinois needs him to be a threat in the paint in order to balance out their offense. Adonis De La Rosa, a transfer from Kent State, has returned from his torn ACL injury suffered last March quicker than expected, but he is still seeing limited minutes. Eventually he could be an answer to Illinois’ frontcourt scoring concerns, but that will not likely happen in time for the Notre Dame game.
This will be a very interesting game between Notre Dame and Illinois. Both teams have had their struggles this year and both teams have hopes of being competitive in their respective conferences. The Irish should be confident that they can win at home, but Illinois’ big game experience already this season will factor into the equation as well. In the end this will not be a resume building win for either team, but the winner will get some much needed momentum.