#2 Illinois vs. #6 Boise State
Josh Whitman may have hit the hard reset button on Illini basketball over the weekend by hiring Brad Underwood as the new head coach, but the season John Groce started is still going on. So, Underwood will be a spectator tonight as the Illini host Boise State (20-11) in the second round of the NIT, with Groce's assistant Jamall Walker leading the team. It's unclear how long this weird limbo lasts (especially weird because Walker has not been confirmed as being retained on Underwood's staff), but I'm sure the seniors are hoping it lasts a little longer.
Boise beat #3 Utah 73-68 to get to Champaign and have outscored opponents 75.7 to 71.2 on the year. The Broncos are led by the guard duo of Chandler Hutchinson and Paris Austin, who have averaged 17.4 and 12.5 points, respectively, and have dished out a combined 169 assists. KenPom ranks Boises's offense more highly than their defense (77 vs. 118) but ranks the Broncos lower than the Illini overall (88 to the Illini's 66).
In the first game of the NIT, Illinois responded to Groce's firing really well, beating Valpo 82-57. Can the team keep rolling despite the excitement and distraction surrounding the program? That remains to be seen, but it would be great to see Malcolm Hill move into third all-time in scoring for the Illini (he needs just 8 points to tie Dee Brown).
My prediction: Illinois wins to set up a game in Bloomington against ISU, which I've been drooling at the thought of since the bracket was announced.