At first glance on paper, these teams look remarkably similar. They both like to play at the same pace, Penn State has an edge on offense that’s slightly compensated for by Illinois’ defensive edge, they rebound at about the same rate, and they both are poor at the free throw line. PSU does have a slight edge in turnover margin.
However, when you dig a little deeper into their offense, you notice a definite difference. Illinois gets a surprisingly small percentage of their points from three point shooting.
In my mind, that plays to Penn State’s advantage. Traditionally, we have had difficulty with teams whose three point shooters can exploit our guards defense. That wouldn’t look to be a worry against Illinois. Our guards won’t need to worry being shot over and can instead focus on preventing drives and filling the passing lanes. So I look for us to hold Illinois to six made three pointers or less.
Our offensive efficiency margin (the delta between our offensive and defensive efficiencies) is 13.3 points. Illinois is 8.2. That 5 point difference equates to about 3 points in a game which is about the advantage that Illinois gets from their home court. With an efficiency edge, we should try to increase the number of possessions in the game – so look for us to try to push the ball.
The main reason that we have that edge in efficiency over Illinois is our turnover margin. Our turnover margin is about three per game greater that theirs. Look for maintaining or increasing that margin to be another key stat in the game.
From looking at the numbers and also being well aware of Illinois recent struggles on the court, I am cautiously optimistic we can get another road win.