There are two schools of thought when it comes to probability. First, there’s the belief that the more you attempt a task with a given probability of success, the more likely you are to succeed at that task. The other, actually correct belief, is that the probability of a task does not change with each try, and rather, in the aggregate, your results will approach the given probability.
As a result of the first school of thought, you get “it’s hard to beat a team three times in a row.” The more you try a task, the more likely you are to succeed, right? The Illinois faithful are hoping this is the case.
It’s unrealistic to expect a win just because Penn State beat Illinois two times already. Likewise, it’s unlikely to expect an Illinois win just because they’ve already lost twice. All that said, these teams are completely different from when they met each time, as both the Illini and the Nittany Lions were still finding themselves back in December. Both were struggling when they met the second time, and, now, both are finding their second wind as they meet in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament. If anything, this should be a back and forth affair, and with what’s on the line, don’t be surprised if this one isn’t decided until the very last minute.
Scouting The Opposition
We’ve talked about Illinois twice already, so there’s nothing much to say that hasn’t already been told. Jayden Epps suffered a concussion about a week ago, but it’s unlikely he sits out for this game. The rest of the cast has started to play better, with the “addition by subtraction” of some of the players leaving the program. The same concerns that existed in the previous two games (how will Penn State deal with Dain Dainja, Matthew Mayer, and Coleman Hawkins) still apply to this game, with the key difference being Illinois seems more committed to sticking to their strategy of strong play inside the arc. If Illinois commits to going inside, Penn State might be in for a world of hurt.
What to Watch For
Can they do it a third time? - Both of Penn State’s victories against Illinois came on the backs of strong shooting performances. A good way to make a team throw out its game plan is to force them to keep up with what the opponent is doing. Can the Lions do it again?
Surging at the right time - Both teams have found a bit of a spark to close out the season. Penn State completed double digit comebacks against Northwestern and Maryland. Illinois nearly did the same, succeeding against Michigan, but coming up short against Purdue. Which team wants it more?
It’s Hard™ to beat a team three times in a row. But if Penn State wants to breathe easy on selection sunday, they’re going to have to. Penn State 72, Illinois 70