Had it not been for Brandon Paul, the Illinois Fighting Illini would be sitting at home rather than taking on the Indiana Hoosiers on Friday afternoon. Paul put on a clinic versus the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday with 25 points a game-winning jumper at the buzzer.
The senior guard is the teams leader in points with 16.6 per game and is second on the team in rebounding, hauling in 4.5 rebounds a night. His versatility has improved each season, however the Illini need not rely so heavily on Paul to take them to the promised land. If the Illini don’t have someone other than Paul step up they will not be dancing for very long.
For example, Paul shot a dazzling 10-16 for a field goal percentage of 63% in a great performance against the Gophers. Unfortunately, the rest of the team was 8-40 which amounts to a field goal percentage of 20%–no team in the country can afford to shoot 32% as a team, even with the incredibly dynamic Paul.
Paul is going to have a tough task taking on the Hoosiers as Victor Oladipo is the Big Ten defensive player of the year and will be guarding Paul the entire day. The last time that these two locked horns, the Illini were victorious over the Hoosiers who went down to Champaign with the best ranking in the country.
D.J Richardson was Illinois leading scoring as he poured in 23 points in the win. This time around Richardson and company are going to have to play better than they did against Minnesota–if they can get scoring off of the bench from unlikely candidates like Tyler Griffey, the Hoosiers could be upset once again.