Illinois basketball faces UCF Wednesday night in a third-round NIT matchup at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.
The No. 2 seed Illini have taken care of business thus far in the NIT, beating Valparaiso by 25 in the first round and Boise State by 15 in the second. No. 4 seed UCF advanced with a one-point win over No. 1 seed Illinois State on Monday.
As the higher seed, Illinois would normally host this game. But a scheduling conflict means the Illini will have to leave the confines of State Farm Center for the first time since NIT play started and head to Orlando. The winner of this game will go on to face the winner of TCU-Richmond in the NIT semifinals on Wednesday.
Illinois basketball vs. UCF game time, details
Time: 6 p.m. CT / 10 p.m. ET
Date: Wednesday, March 22
Place: CFE Arena, Orlando, Fla.
Line: UCF is favored by 2.5 points
What TV channel is Illinois-UCF on?
The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
How can I watch Illinois-UCF online?
You can go on watchESPN.
Illinois basketball vs. Boise State preview
The Illini will be in their third game under interim head coach Jamall Walker, who took over after the program fired John Groce. The team’s already hired Brad Underwood as its next head coach, but Walker will continue to coach the team through its NIT run. Underwood will keep Walker on staff, according to The News-Gazzette.
But as long as this NIT run lasts, Walker is in charge. He’ll try to coax the best out of leading scorer Malcolm Hill, who averages 17 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3 assists per game. Hill had 25 points against Valpo and 13 against Boise State in this NIT, and will likely need to have a big game for Illinois to succeed against UCF. Illinois supports him with Maverick Morgan, who averages 10 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, and Tracy Abrams, Leron Black and Jalen Coleman-Lands, all of whom average at least 8 points per game.
The Knights bring in a slightly less powerful offensive attack, but their defense makes up for it. The team has the 18th-most efficient defense in the country, according to KenPom.com‘s metrics, and the 160th-most efficient offense. UCF brings a 23-11 record into Wednesday’s game, and finished fourth in the AAC with a 11-7 conference finish. Illinois, meanwhile, finished ninth in the Big Ten with an 8-10 conference record (20-14 overall).
UCF’s led by B.J. Taylor, Matt Williams and Tacko Fall. Taylor, a sophomore guard, leads the team with 18 points per game to go along with 4 rebounds and 3.1 assists. Williams, a fifth-year senior, is second on the team with 15 points per game, almost doubling what he did last season in that department. He adds 4.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Fall, meanwhile, is the player with whom you might be familiar. The 7-foot-6 sophomore center from Senegal is still raw, but pours in 11 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game.
One team will see its season — and its seniors’ careers — come to an end, while the other will be just two wins away from winning the NIT championship.