The Illini (who have the most BTT wins all time with 23) were living
and dying by the perimeter game all day and it came back to bite them.
They stopped getting looks inside, forced up terrible shots and
committed loads of turnovers down the stretch as the Wolverines ended up beating them 60-55.
The Illini blew a double digit second
half lead and let Michigan commit a 12-0 run to tie it at 51 inside
three minutes to go. The Illini looked especially embarrassing during
the last 8:33. After Brandon Paul hit a three to put Illinois up 51-39,
they scored a whopping four points.
So this contest did little to reaffirm the idea that this team is mentally tough.
"I just think the start of our defense we kind of relaxed and got the
hairs up. We had them down 9, 11, 9, 11, and then they started hitting
shots. Hardaway hit a big three to put them up, and we just had a
stagnant offense. We stopped moving, stopped cutting and stopped getting
the ball to Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis on the block, and once you do
that and give a good shooting team like that and get their confidence
back, it's going to be hard to beat once they get their confidence and
hit their shots at the same time," Demetri McCamey said.
Tisdale, Brandon Paul and McCamey tied to "lead" the Illini in points with 10. But all of them shot under 50% from the floor for the game.
"Just very disappointing, very sad, but just got to hope for the best now that we'll be able to play basketball next week." Bruce Weber said.
Now that the Illini are eliminated from the BTT, let's move on to selection Sunday.
Contrary to what you may have heard, this was a not a "play-in game".
It's more like a "stay-in game," or get a better seeding game.
With a RPI of 40, strength of schedule at 16, ten top 100 RPI wins, a
rank of 19 in Pomeroy, 5 in Pomeroy SOS, they should be okay. They've
also beaten five opponents who've won their regular season conference
UNC, Gonzaga, Oakland, Northern Colorado, and Western Michigan.
Had the Illini finished this game out, it would have given them 13 20-win seasons in the last 15, and 29 all time.
"I feel that we played a tough non-conference schedule, we played quality
opponents, we've beaten Top 50 teams, you know, we competed in one of
the best conferences in the country. But at the same time, we went
through it last year, and you just don't know. You have to wait and see
what happens over the next couple days, and if there is any upsets or
anyone else sneaks in, because you don't know if you'll be the team to
be left out.
I thought if we would have won today, I would have been very confident
that we'd be playing next week in the NCAA Tournament. I still feel
good, but at the same time we've just got to wait and see what happens
with everybody else," Weber said of the Illini tournament chances.
Illinois is now 12-2 in both the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals and
BTT opening games. Both are by far the best record of any team, but
that probably doesn't make any Illinois fans feel any better.
The loss drops Illinois to 2-4 on a neutral court this season, not a
good sign when you consider all NCAA Tournament games are on neutral
Written by Paul M. Banks, President and CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Midwest webzine. He's also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Tribune's blog network, Walter Football, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank
Tags: 2011 Illinois basketball, Big ten basketball, big ten hoops, Big Ten Tournament, big ten tourney, illini, illini basketball, illini basketball big ten tournament, illini lose, illinois hoops, michigan big ten tournament, Michigan Wolverines, michigan wolverines basketball, tim hardaway jr michigan, tim hardaway jr.