The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Sports

March 13, 2014

Familiar foe for Illini

Illinois, Indiana will play Big Ten Tournament opener

INDIANAPOLIS — Illinois knows Indiana and Indiana knows Illinois.

That's the beauty of a conference tournament and facing a team for the third time this season.

"Conference tournaments a little unique because you are playing teams for the second or third time,'' Illinois coach John Groce said. "Familiarity breeds contempt. We will be familiar with their personnel and system, like they will be with ours.

"At this time of the year, it's hard to score. In conference tournaments, coaching is so good, schemes are so good, familiarity with personnel is off the charts, so guys are taking things away. I think the margin of error is small. At the end of the day, toughness and players making plays will be the difference.''

The Fighting Illini, seeded No. 9, and the eight-seeded Hoosiers will get things started at 11 a.m. today in the Big Ten Tournament being held this season at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Following that game will be fifth-seeded Ohio State against Purdue, seeded No. 12.

Not only are the Big Ten teams playing for a conference tournament title, but there is also the automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament that comes with a title.

"Obviously, an exciting time of the year,'' Illinois coach John Groce said. "There is nobody that loves March more than me. It's great to be playing for something this time of the year. Not everyone gets that opportunity.''

And while it seems like Illinois (18-13) will need to win the title to get a second-straight NCAA Tournament berth, there are some experts that think the Illini could get an at-large berth if they reached the championship game on Sunday.

Not bad for a team that lost eight straight in the middle of the conference season.

"I want to give our guys a lot of credit for staying the course and hanging in there,'' said Groce, whose team has won four of its last five, including a thrilling 66-63 victory at Iowa on Saturday. "I do think we are playing the best that we've played all year at this point.

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NJCAA Tourney Photos 2014


Check out the action at the NJCAA Division II National Men's Basketball Tournament March 18-22 at DACC. Buy photos from the Commercial-News here: http://smu.gs/1iCWKnP

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