HQ prediction: UI 71, Butler 70
Beat writer Marcus Jackson tries to end the Maui Invitational on a two-game win streak:
Illinois 71, Butler 70
(9 p.m., ESPN)
Brad Stevens was rumored to have been targeted for the Illinois job that eventually went to John Groce. That stuff won’t matter once the ball is tipped. What matters is that college basketball players aren’t used to playing back-to-back, much less three games in a row. And when Illinois’ regulars started to show some fatigue in Tuesday’s win against Chaminade, Joseph Bertrand, Myke Henry and Devin Langford gave the team a lift. “Those guys gave us a lot of energy off the bench when a couple of our starters didn’t have it consistently energy-wise,” Groce said. “They were up and down throughout the game, but I thought those guys gave us a huge boost.” In a toss-up game against a tough, disciplined Butler squad, it could come down those guys with the fresh legs. (N-G record 4-1).