Just two days after Illinois announced the hiring of Brad Underwood to lead the men’s basketball program, the Illini will take the floor Monday. But they’re still playing for Jamall Walker right now.
Illinois will host Boise State at 8 p.m. CT / 9 p.m. ET on Monday, trying to advance to the NIT quarterfinals while playing in front of the home faithful at State Farm Center. Illini players with remaining eligibility will also try to make a strong impression with their new head coach.
The second-seeded Illini (19-14) reached the second round thanks to an 82-57 blowout of Valparaiso in the first round last Tuesday. They’ll face No. 6 seed Boise State (20-11), which knocked off third-seeded Utah 73-68 on the road, also last Tuesday.
The winner will face either top-seeded Illinois State or fourth-seeded UCF in the quarterfinals with a trip to Madison Square Garden on the line. Illinois is the only Big Ten team remaining in the NIT after No. 1 seed Iowa fell at home to TCU in overtime Sunday.
Illinois basketball vs. Boise State game time, details
Time: 8 p.m. CT / 9 p.m. ET
Date: Monday, March 20
Place: State Farm Center, Champaign, Ill.
Line: Illinois is favored by 7.5 points
What TV channel broadcasts Illinois basketball vs. Boise State?
The game will be on ESPN.
How can I watch Illinois basketball vs. Boise State online?
The game will be streaming on WatchESPN.
Illinois basketball vs. Boise State preview
Illinois is certainly not going through a normal postseason run.
Walker, an assistant under former coach John Groce, took over as interim coach following Groce’s firing. Last Tuesday, players rallied around Walker, and themselves, for an easy win against Valpo.
Then over the weekend, Illini players received another notable piece of news when it was announced Underwood was coming to Champaign after just one season coaching Oklahoma State. The Cowboys were beaten in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Michigan.
Will the news of Underwood’s hiring serve as a distraction during the second round of the NIT? Or will the Illini shake off coaching news like they did last week by winning a game just days after Groce was fired?
They’ll also be playing the game just hours after Underwood is officially introduced as the head coach in the same building. Meanwhile, Walker is hoping the team can postpone the Underwood era for a few more days.
— Illini Basketball (@IlliniMBB) March 19, 2017
Illinois gets the luxury of playing at home — and the luxury of having senior Malcolm Hill on its roster — against the Broncos (20-11). Hill put up 25 points against Valpo, ensuring it would not be his final game in an Illini uniform. The guard averages 17.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game on the season and would prefer to finish out his college career in Madison Square Garden.
Forward Maverick Morgan (10.7 points per game) is the only other Illinois player to score in double figures.
Boise State, meanwhile, went 12-6 this season in the Mountain West, finishing only behind NCAA Tournament participant Nevada and fellow NIT squad Colorado State in the conference. The Broncos get 17.4 points per game from junior guard Chandler Hutchinson, who hits nearly half of his field goal attempts. Hutchinson went off for 34 points — a career best — in the win against Utah.