The Illinois Fighting Illini will travel to Tuscaloosa to face the Alabama Crimson Tide in the opening round of the NIT. Even though Illinois is the higher seed, they will be forced to play on the road due to renovations in the State Farm Center.
Illinois had their sights set on a NCAA Tournament bid, but their bubble was burst by an early exit in the Big Ten Tournament at the hands of Michigan. However, Illinois will seek to close out their season strong in the NIT against Alabama.
#3 Illinois Fighting Illini at #6 Alabama Crimson Tide
- Game Time: 9:00PM ET
- Where To Watch: ESPN
Alabama Scouting Report
There's a new coach in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama will be playing with a new coach on Tuesday night. The Crimson Tide fired six year head coach Anthony Grant this past Sunday. John Brannen will take over the coaching duties on an interim basis to close out the season for Alabama. We'll see how this team responds given the coaching situation. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw an inspired Alabama team on Tuesday night.
Alabama peaked at the wrong time.
The Crimson Tide started the off the year with a 12-3 record, but closed out the season going 6-11. They've lost four out of their last six games as well. Like Illinois, Alabama was also an early exit in their conference tournament. The Crimson Tide didn't end their year like they would've liked, but they can end on a positive note with a couple wins in the NIT.
Make the Crimson Tide shoot 3's.
Alabama is at it's best when they are attacking the rim and drawing fouls. They've scored 70% of their points from inside the three point line or at the foul line. They aren't comfortable shooting the three ball and are 258th in the country in three point percentage. The way to slow them down offensively is by shutting down the paint and making them a three point shooting team.
Alabama player to watch.
Senior guard Levi Randolph is their go to player. He leads the team in points with just over 15 points a game adn also isn't afraid to fight for rebounds, leading the team with an average of 5 boards a game.
What to watch for
How will Illinois adjust to playing in the NIT.
Let's be honest, nobody starts the season with the goal of making the NIT. The Fighting Illini were on the bubble before they lost to Michigan in the NCAA Tournament. It's hard to get motivated after missing out on something you've been striving for all season. We'll see if the Fighting Illini will come out motivated to play this one.
Can the Fighting Illini win on the road?
Illinois hasn't been the best road team this season and are 2-8 in true road games this season. We'll see if they can get that number up before the season ends.
New NIT shot clock rules should help Illinois.
College basketball will experiment with a 30 second shot clock in the NIT. This should help out Illinois considering they don't normally use the full 35 seconds anyway. Alabama on the other hand plays at a much slower pace and is 297th in adjusted tempo. This could prove to be a problem for them.