Game 31 preview | No. 12 Illinois at Iowa; 6 p.m., Sunday

Mar. 9—Beat writer Scott Richey breaks down the regular season finale matchup between the Illini and Hawkeyes:


No. 12 Illinois (22-8, 13-6 Big Ten)


G/F Marcus Domask Gr. 6-6 16.2 Waupun, Wis.

G Terrence Shannon Jr. Sr. 6-6 21.5 Chicago

G/F Ty Rodgers So. 6-6 6.5 Saginaw, Mich.

F Quincy Guerrier Gr. 6-8 10.3 Montreal

F Coleman Hawkins Sr. 6-10 13.3 Sacramento, Calif.

FYI: Illinois coach Brad Underwood took issue with the two rebounds Shannon had in Tuesday's loss to Purdue. Mostly that two was not nearly enough. Shannon is averaging 4.3 rebounds this season — down just slightly from the 4.6 per game he hauled in a year ago — but Underwood is demanding more. Maybe not the 11 rebounds Shannon had in dropping 35 points on Penn State last month, but closer to that than the two against the Boilermakers.

Off the bench

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

G Justin Harmon Gr. 6-4 6.8 Chicago

F/C Dain Dainja R-Jr. 6-9 5.4 Brooklyn Park, Minn.

G Luke Goode Jr. 6-7 6.1 Fort Wayne, Ind.

Iowa (18-12, 10-9 Big Ten)


P Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

G Tony Perkins Sr. 6-4 14.9 Indianapolis

G Josh Dix So. 6-5 8.8 Council Bluffs, Iowa

F Payton Sandfort Jr. 6-7 16.0 Waukee, Iowa

F Ben Krikke Gr. 6-9 13.9 Edmonton, Alberta

F Owen Freeman Fr. 6-10 10.7 Moline

FYI: Sandfort had 12 points on just 3 of 11 shooting in Iowa's late February loss at Illinois. Since? The Iowa wing posted the program's first ever triple-double with 26 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a home win against Penn State and followed that up with 23 points, six assists and five rebounds in a road win at Northwestern. Sandfort now has five 20-point games in the second half of the season .

Off the bench

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

F Patrick McCaffery R-Sr. 6-9 8.7 Iowa City, Iowa

G Brock Harding Fr. 6-0 3.1 Moline

F Ladji Dembele Fr. 6-8 2.1 Newark, N.J.


Site: Carver-Hawkeye Arena (14,998); Iowa City, Iowa.

Radio: Brian Barnhart (play-by-play) and former Illini Deon Thomas (analysis) will have the call on the Illini Sports Network on WDWS 1400-AM, WDWS 93.9-FM, WHMS 97.5-FM, WPXN 104.9-FM, WDAN-1490-AM and WDNL 102.1-FM.

TV: Brandon Gaudin (play-by-play) and former Illini Stephen Bardo (analysis) will have the call on FS1.

Series: Illinois leads 91-77.

Last meeting: Illinois won 95-85 on Feb. 24 in Champaign.

FYI: Brad Underwood has just a single win in Iowa City, Iowa, with Illinois beating Iowa on Dec. 6, 2021. The Hawkeyes took care of business at home last season with an 81-79 victory on Feb. 4, 2023. Matthew Mayer's 21 points led four Illini in double figures, but it wasn't enough with Iowa's Tony Perkins going off for 32 points on 8 of 11 shooting overall to go with 15 of 16 free-throw shooting.

Beat writer Scott Richey's storylines

Still something left to play for

Coleman Hawkins didn't give much thought to Illinois' Senior Night celebration earlier this week. His focus wasn't on the fact he'd play what was likely his final game at State Farm Center. And the Illini senior forward felt mostly the same following Tuesday's loss to No. 3 Purdue. Hawkins' focus is more on what this particular Illinois team can still accomplish in the next month. "I'm aware things come to an end," he said. "I put a lot of time and effort into here. I'm not saying I'm ready for it to be over, but I'm just kind of aware where I'm at. Things have got to come to an end. That's what happens. I wish we would have won (Tuesday) — it would have felt a lot better — but it hasn't really hit me. I just feel the same and focused on the next game. We've still got Iowa, and we've still got some games left."

Will Hawkeyes have full home-court advantage?

Carver-Hawkeye Arena was sold out all season ... for the Iowa women's team. The Hawkeyes' men's team hasn't generated nearly as much attention nor garnered the same kind of crowds Caitlin Clark and Co. brought out on a nightly basis. It had redshirt senior forward Patrick McCaffery questioning what kind of crowd might show up for Sunday's regular season finale against Illinois. "I would hope it's pretty good," McCaffery told reporters earlier this week. "But I don't know. Our crowds have been pretty bad most of the year with the exception of a couple games. So who knows. I hope it's good." Sunday's game will at least be a sellout — the second for the Iowa men this season — with that news being announced Thursday. The average announced attendance this season has been 9,987, which is roughly 67 percent capacity.

Seeding permutations on final weekend

Purdue and Illinois are locked into the top two seeds, respectively, for the Big Ten tournament. Michigan has just as firm a grasp on the No. 14 seed. The other 11 will be decided this weekend with just four games separating third place from 13th place in the conference standings. This weekend's games — plus next week's Big Ten tournament in Minneapolis — will also have some bearing on NCAA tournament seeding. The Illini seem headed for at least a No. 4 seed. The Hawkeyes are among the "First Four Out" in bracketology projections by both ESPN's Joe Lunardi and CBS Sports' Jerry Palm.

The News-Gazette's pick

No. 12 Illinois 94, Iowa 89

Something has to give. Illinois has not lost consecutive games this season. Fresh off Tuesday's loss to Purdue that would seem to indicate a Sunday win at Iowa on the horizon. But the Illini have also won just every other Big Ten road game this season. The last trip away from home ended in a win at Wisconsin, so the pattern would suggest the Hawkeyes cap the regular season with a win. Both trends can't continue. Based on last month's matchup in Champaign and Illinois being the better team all season, the first option seems more likely. (N-G prediction record: 26-4)