Illinois has been plagued with inconsistency all season. The team shoots so many three-pointers, that when they do not fall, the offense does not work. They roared through the preseason with great shooting. They were able to beat Gonzaga, thanks to their hot shooting, but lost to Missouri after a cold night of shooting. Multiple other times, Illinois was in too close of games with inferior competition due to their cold shooting.
A whopping 36% of all of Illinois’ shots, including free throws, are three-pointers. To put that in context, last season, just 26.6% of shots were three-pointers.
When the shots fall, the Illini tend to win. That is obvious. The problem is, after shooting over 35% on three-pointers in every one of their first 8 games, Illinois has cooled off. In their last 9 games, they have shot just twice over 35% from beyond the arc.
This is partially due to the fact that the level of competition has picked up, especially recently with the start of conference play. In their three losses coming in to Saturday, Illinois has shot 25%, 38.5% and 12.5% on three-pointers.
So, the obvious solutions to this would be to either shoot fewer threes, or make more threes.
Illinois needs to diversify their offense. They have guys capable of attacking the rim, like Brandon Paul, Tracy Abrams, DJ Richardson and Joseph Bertrand. When perimeter players aggressively attack the paint, it opens up the floor for the whole team. It even opens up open three-pointers, rather than forced ones. Even though Illinois lacks a post-up game, they can still have an inside game offensively.
Illinois has a chance to do big things this year, but first they must adjust their offense. Sure, they can crush opponents when they are on fire from outside, but when the threes are not dropping, Illinois has to be able to adjust to attacking the rim. Illinois has lived by the three, but they will most certainly die by the three.