The Illinois Fighting Illini will play the #2 Miami Hurricanes at Frank Erwin Special Events Center in Austin, Texas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Fighting Illini won their first game over the #10 Colorado Buffaloes, 57-49, on Friday. It was a tale of two halves for Illinois. They played phenomenally in the first half before going cold in the second. They did not make a single shot for the first eleven minutes of the second half. Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson would hit back-to-back three-pointers to help the Illini “survive and advance.”
Miami (FL) comes into Sunday’s NCAA Tournament game with an overall record of 28-6 and an ACC record of 15-3. The Hurricanes defeated #15 Pacific, 78-49, in their first round game. They led 40-19 at the half and were able to ride that lead to a win.
There are three players that have fueled the Miami (FL) offense this season.
These players include: Shane Larkin (14.4 points per game), Durand Scott (13.5 points per game), and Kenny Kadji (13.1 points per game).
In their first round game against Pacific, Scott led the team with 21 points. He went 6-of-10 from the field, 5-of-8 from beyond the arc, and 4-of-4 from the charity stripe.
When it comes to rebounding, Reggie Johnson is the best on the team for the Hurricanes. He averages 7.1 rebounds per game and grabbed ten rebounds off the bench in the first game of the tournament.
Trey McKinney Jones also had a big rebounding game for the Canes in the first round. He started the game and hauled in eight rebounds.
The best part of Miami’s game is on the defensive side of the ball. They had three players receive votes from ACC coaches in regards to Defensive Player of the Year.
The Miami players to receive votes were Scott, Kadji, and Julian Gamble. Gamble and Kadji received one vote each while Scott received three. Those three votes earned Scott with ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors this season.
Even though he did not receive votes, Shane Larkin is also great defensively. He averages two steals per game and recorded three steals in their last game against Pacific.
This will most likely be Illinois’ toughest opponent of the tournament. The Canes won the ACC Tournament, but did not receive a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This game could be seen as a #7 v.s. a #1.
In order to beat Miami, Illinois will need to make their shots. They will need to play like they did in the first half against Colorado. Miami plays great defensive and will force Illinois to take tough shots. I wouldn’t be surprised if this game turns out to be like the Illinois/Indiana game from the Big Ten conference tournament.
Illinois will need to make their outside shots if they want any chance of winning this game. Miami is the favorite, but Illinois has beaten giants before this season.
If Illinois wins on Sunday, they will face #3 Marquette in the East Regional next Thursday. Marquette defeated the #6 Butler Bulldogs, 74-72, in the second round on Saturday.
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