All-time: 1-1 (last: UAB 59 - 52 Illinois, 11/24/1984)
Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. (in Niceville, FL, for the Emerald Coast Classic)
TV: CBS Sports Network
You’re still paying attention? Then congratulations on caring about the Illinois men’s basketball team after its embarassing start to the season. Sure, 2-3 isn’t a god-awful record, but “surviving” and “Chicago State” are not words used in the same sentence to describe a good team. Now Illinois is going to Florida for the Emerald Coast Classic, hoping to put its struggles in the past.
UAB, Illinois’s first opponent, made the NCAA Tourney last year and even advanced after upsetting Iowa State. They’re conference favorites and have a lot of experience, but that doesn’t seem to have made a difference in the early going. The Blazers narrowly lost their first game to Auburn and then narrowly escaped Alabama State and Jacksonville State, with a more convincing win over Troy in between.
Like Illinois, UAB is prone to slow starts, which has led to games being closer than they should. Unlike most of Illinois’s opponents thus far, though, the Blazers barely shoot the 3 ball and make those shots even less often. Given Illinois’s size this year this could be an advantage, but with defense as poor as the Illini have shown that doesn’t seem to be the case. Likewise, the Blazers’ opponents have only converted 25% of their threes; so how the offense runs on Friday really remains to be seen.
UAB: Robert Brown, guard; Nick Norton, guard; Hakeem Baxter, guard; Tosin Mehinti, forward; William Lee, forward
Illini: Khalid Lewis, guard; Jalen Coleman-Lands, guard; Malcolm Hill, guard; Michael Finke, forward; Mike Thorne Jr., center
Illinois got a win against Chicago State, which is really all that matters, but at points in that game I was just laughing at loud at the play of the Illini. They haven’t shown the talent or the spirit they’ll need this season, so my gut doesn’t really believe they’ll get a win over UAB.