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NIT Preview: Illinois vs. Boston University - Kendrick Nunn Key

The Illini at one of two Big Ten teams in the NIT and are looking for a big win.

Illinois gonna wreck the NIT.
Illinois gonna wreck the NIT.
USA TODAY Sports

By the Numbers

Illinois Team Boston U.
19-14 Record 24-10
B1G Conference 15-3
7-11 Conf. Record Patriot
#2 NIT Seed #7
67 RPI 88
58 KenPom 123

March 19th, 2014 - Agganis Arena, Boston, Massachusetts

7:00 PM ET - ESPN2

The Skinny

Illinois admittedly was probably hoping for a different postseason tournament earlier in the season, but after a nightmarish stretch during the middle of Big Ten play, they just were not able to do enough at the end of the year to get the team onto the bubble and into the big dance. Still, Illinois has won 5 of their last 7 games with their only losses coming against Big Ten champion Michigan including a nailbiter in the Big Ten Tournament. Illinois is a #2 seed in the NIT and arguably could be undervalued.

Boston University lost its last game against American, but had won 9 of the 10 games before that and 11 of 13 games total before that American game. Also, it's worth noting that American is currently sitting in the NCAA Tournament, so that's not exactly a horrible loss. The Terriers also got a nice boost due to Illinois' home court construction as they get to host this game and certainly have an improved chance compared to the other #7 seeds.

Projected Starting Lineups

Illinois Position Boston University
Tracy Abrams G D.J. Irving
Rayvonte Rice G Maurice Watson, Jr.
Kendrick Nunn F/G John Papale
Malcolm Hill F Nathan Dieudonne
Nnanna Egwu C/F Dom Morris

Key Players

Rayvonte Rice - Rice has been a beast all season and comes into this game averaging 15.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. He made a few mistakes in his last game against Michigan, but should be a key component against Boston U.

Kendrick Nunn - Arguably the best Illinois player in the last few weeks has been Nunn, which is good news for the future of Illinois basketball. Nunn has a diverse game and should have a big impact on Wednesday night.

Maurice Watson, Jr. - Watson is the leading scorer for Boston U. averaging 13.5 points per game. He also averages an impressive 6.9 assists per game.

D.J. Irving - One of the other guys that could make an impact is Irving. Irving currently averages 12.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.

Prediction

Like Minnesota's game last night, expect this one to be pretty competitive. Both teams have weapons that can make the other team pay. However, Boston University is going to have a big challenge facing a defensive team like Illinois. Playing on the road will be tough, but Illinois should win this one.

Illinois 61, Boston University 54