UI MBB preview: vs. Boise State in NIT
Illinois vs. Boise State, Monday, 8 p.m.
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Te'Jon Lucas Fr. 6-0 4.7
G Tracy Abrams Gr. 6-2 8.4
G Malcolm Hill Sr. 6-6 17.0
F Leron Black R-So. 6-7 8.1
C Maverick Morgan Sr. 6-10 10.1
Off the bench
G Jalen Coleman-Lands So. 6-3 8.0
F Kipper Nichols R-Fr. 6-6 4.9
G D.J. Williams So. 6-7 2.3
FYI: A win against the Broncos, beyond extending Illinois' season into the NIT quarterfinals, would give the Illini their 32nd 20-win season in program history.
Boise State (20-11)
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G James Reid R-Sr. 6-3 10.0
G Justinian Jessup Fr. 6-6 7.6
G Chandler Hutchison Jr. 6-7 17.4
F Nick Duncan Sr. 6-8 9.3
F David Wacker R-So. 6-10 4.9
Off the bench
G Paris Austin So. 6-0 12.5
F Zach Haney R-So. 6-11 5.2
G Marcus Dickinson Fr. 6-2 3.4
FYI: Reid has been a fixture in the Broncos' starting lineup since late January, with the Arkansas-Little Rock transfer averaging 11.7 ppg after averaging just 2.3 ppg when he started the first three games of the season.
Site: State Farm Center (15,544), Champaign.
Radio: Brian Barnhart (play-by-play) and former Illini Deon Thomas (expert analysis) have the call on the Illini Sports Network on WHMS 97.5-FM, WDWS 1400-AM, WDAN 1490-AM, WDNL 102.1-FM and WPXN 104.9-FM.
TV: Doug Sherman (play-by-play) and Stephen Howard (expert analysis) have the call on ESPN.
Series history: Illinois leads 1-0.
Last meeting: Illinois won 84-77 on Dec. 5, 2009.
FYI: The Illini last advanced to the NIT quarterfinals in 2010, beating Kent State 75-58 behind Mike Tisdale's 17 points and double-doubles from Mike Davis (16 points, 16 rebounds) and Demetri McCamey (15 points, 10 assists).
Scott Richey's storylines
Go ahead and draw the comparisons between Illinois senior Malcolm Hill and Boise State junior Chandler Hutchison. It's not hard. Both are more big guard than forward playing on the wing, and both do a little bit of everything for their team. Hill leads the Illini in scoring, is second in rebounding behind Leron Black and has totaled the most assists on the team. Hutchison leads the Broncos in scoring and rebounding and ranks behind just Paris Austin in assists. "He's very impactual," Illinois interim coach Jamall Walker said of Hutchison. "He hits the glass, he can shoot threes, he can get to the rim (and) as he goes they go — particularly on offense. He gives them confidence." Might as well have been talking about Hill.
FORWARD'S SEASON OVER
Michael Finke won't play in today's game against Boise State, or in future games if Illinois continues its NIT run. The redshirt sophomore forward doesn't have a stress fracture in his left foot, but was told it could become one if he kept playing on it. "It started getting really bad Sunday, Monday right before our game (against Valparaiso)," Finke said. "Got an X-ray on it and an MRI and decided to shut it down. It sucks. I want to play no matter if it's the NCAA tournament, NIT, CIT. I want to play. I've got to rest and get better for next season." The foot injury is not the same one Finke dealt with earlier this season. It's the other foot entirely. "I was taping up my other foot with the pinky toe, and literally right when we stopped taping it and it was feeling great I started feeling it in the other foot."
Illinois had plenty of distractions before facing off against Valparaiso in the first round of the NIT, playing the Crusaders 72 hours after former coach John Groce was fired. The Illini responded with a 25-point win. Walker said the team was able to focus more on the NIT itself this week before Saturday’s announcement Brad Underwood had been hired as Illinois’ new coach. Now, the Illini must play Boise State with some different emotions circling the program. “They’re excited about the opportunity to play, and that’s all I’m trying to keep them focused in on,” Walker said. “It’s on them. It’s on the players. It’s on the seniors. ... I can’t do it by myself. Neither can the staff. My playing career ended in ‘99, so we’re going to do the best we can to get them prepped as far as strategically and to bring their mindset and toughness to the game.”
Prediction: Illinois 76, Boise State 69
Boise State won't go down easily. Just ask Utah, which led by 11 in the second half before Hutchison and the Broncos made their run. But this is another opportunity for a veteran Illinois team to prove its advantages. Walker is putting the onus of a competitive mindset on his seniors. They responded in the first round against Valparaiso, and now have to do it again. (N-G prediction record: 23-10)