Feb 26, 2014; Champaign, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward/center Nnanna Egwu (32) andguard Kendrick Nunn (25) and forward Jon Ekey (33) and guard Tracy Abrams (13) and guard Rayvonte Rice (24) huddle during the first half against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Fighting Illini Basketball: Illinois vs. Clemson NIT 2nd Round Preview Thoughts

It’s Saturday night, and March Madness has settled in nicely all across the country. Our Illinois Fighting Illini survived an acute case of the Madness in Boston this past Wednesday, and they got a hard earned post season win as a result. Next up? The Clemson Tigers.

I managed to catch a good bit of Clemson’s first round match-up with Georgia State and came away realizing that Illinois is going to be facing a team that’s very similar to themselves. The Tigers are physical, and they attack the rim. When Illinois is right, that’s exactly who they are and where they excel best.

Clemson’s 6’6″ junior Forward K.J. McDaniels put on quite the show in Clemson’s NIT opener, finishing the game with 30 points on 9 of 11 shooting including 2 of 3 from three point range and 10 of 12 from the free throw line. He also hauled in 14 rebounds and blocked 5 shots for good measure. As if it’s not obvious from his stat line, he’s the real deal, and Illinois is going to have to limit his effectiveness if they want to have any shot of upending the Tigers on their home court. That said, part of the reason he was so effective in scoring the basketball was the position he was consistently being placed in by his teammates, particularly Rod Hall.

Hall is a 6’1″ junior Guard and his dribble penetration led directly to 6 assists, two of which went to McDaniels. He is very physical, and stopping him from imposing his will in the paint is going to be of utmost importance for the Illini guards.

One other quick thought I have after watching what Clemson brings to the table offensively is that it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Illini find a lot of success in their zone in this match-up. Clemson only shot 29.4% from three in their NIT opener. Furthermore, the Tigers only shot 30.3% from three as a team during the regular season. Pack it in, stop 6’10” sophomore Landry Nnoko from finding anything easy on the interior, and force Clemson to settle for contested three point attempts. If Illinois chooses to attack the Tigers in this manner defensively, I really like their chances to come out on top despite Clemson having won 10 straight NIT games on their home floor.

The Skinny

When: Sunday, March 23, 2014, 10 AM CST

Where: Littlejohn Coliseum – Clemson, SC

TV: ESPN2 (Directv 209 / DISH Network 144)

Announcers: Rich Hollenberg (Play by Play) and LaPhonso Ellis (Analyst)

Feel free to drop back in during the game and chat with other Illini fans in the comments section below with any observations you may have!


You can follow Ryan on Twitter @RPKraemer.

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