The 2017 NIT continues for the Boise State Broncos on Monday night with a road game against the Illinois Fighting Illini’.
A win would not only advance the Broncos (20-11) in the tournament, it would also be Boise State’s first-ever win over a Big Ten opponent.
Ten days ago, it looked as if this better-than-expected team had met a disappointing end to the season. A loss in the Mountain West tournament quarterfinals sent the Broncos home, with it what many assumed would be the end of their season.
One NIT berth and one victory over Utah later, the Broncos are riding high. Now, they sit one win away from making the final eight of the NIT.
Chandler Hutchison delivered a career-high 34 points in the victory over the Utes. Another performance like this might be necessary to take down Illinois (19-14) on Monday night.
A victory would be Boise State’s first-ever over a current member of the Big Ten. Currently 0-9, their most recent loss was a 77-67 defeat at the hands of Michigan State.
The Broncos have faced the Fighting Illini’ once before, a 84-77 loss in 2009.
Other losses in recent years have been to Wisconsin in 2014 and Michigan State in 2012.
Boise State and head coach Leon Rice–who notched 20 wins for the sixth time in seven seasons–will be without the services of David Wacker. Wacker injured his shoulder in last week’s win against Utah.
Hutchison put the team on his shoulders early in the game, but it was a pair of freshman and a sophomore who helped finish it out. Marcus Dickinson was huge on the offensive end while Justinian Jessup had a few timely steals and rebounds on the defensive end.
Big man Zach Haney also played well down the stretch, delivering big buckets in the second half.
While the Broncos were able to defeat the Utes behind Hutchison’s epic night, they will no doubt need better performance from seniors Nick Duncan and James Reid. The two combined for only four points in the win.
Haney and Robin Jorch–with Wacker out–will also see their minutes expand.
A Look at Illinois
Illinois won their first-round game with relative ease. Under interim coach Jamall Walker, the Fightin Illini’ defeated Valparaiso 82-57.
Walker, an assistant, was named the interim coach after John Groce was fired after the team’s loss in the Big Ten tournament.
Brad Underwood, less than a day after his Oklahoma State team was eliminated from the NCAA tournament, was tapped as the new head coach at Illinois. Walker will continue to coach Illinois in the NIT.
The Fighting Illini’ are led by Malcolm Hill. Hill had 25 points in the opening round win over Valpo. He is averaging 17 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3 assists per game.
Maverick Morgan, one of multiple rotation players to stand 6-10 or above, is second with 10.1 points per game. Morgan, though, only grabs 4.5 rebounds per game as Illinois finished 13th in the 14-team Big Ten in rebounding.
Leron Black had a double-double against Valpo, pouring in 13 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. On the season, he averages eight points and 6 rebounds.
The Fighting Illini’s top three-point shooters are Tracy Abrams (42%) and Jalen Coleman-Lands (67 made threes).
The winner of this game will take on the winner of Illinois State and UCF on March 21 or 22.