Jamall Walker is 1-0 as interim head coach of the Illinois Fighting Illini. That is a fact.
Another fact? He’s about to go up against a team that is coming off arguably its biggest win of the season.
What’s that, you want yet another fact?? Well, I have one. Boise State, Illinois opponent in tomorrow’s second round NIT action, is led by a player who is coming off a 34 point game against Utah in the first round. His name is Chandler Hutchison, and the Illini are going to want to look out for him.
Here are the two keys to an Illinois win in Monday night’s second round game between them and Boise State.
#2 Illinois Fighting Illini vs #6 Boise State Broncos
- Time/T.V: Monday 9:00 PM E.T - ESPN
- Spread: Illinois (-7.5)
1. Can Malcolm Hill get hot?
Malcolm Hill is, quite obviously, Illinois’ best player. In their first round matchup against Valparaiso, he led the team in scoring with 25 points. Now, Illinois was clearly a far superior team than Valpo, but the Illini will usually go as their talented senior does.
Boise State is 89th in adjusted defense according to KenPom, which means there will be points to be scored in this game for the Illini. Malcolm Hill, as always, will be looked for to carry his team on offence.
Utah was able to hit on 56% of their three pointers, and Malcolm Hill will be looking to follow up on his four-for-seven shooting night with another hot game from long range. Hill knows that any game in this tournament could be his last as an Illini, and Jamall Walker will certainly hope his star will play with that in mind.
2. How does one stop Chandler Hutchison?
In their first round game against Utah, the four Bronco starters not named Chandler Hutchison combined for a total of 12 points.
Chandler Hutchison? Well, he scored 34.
And that was just on one-for-four from deep. He went 12-24 from the field and five-for-six from the free throw line. He’s going to be a damn problem for the Illini. A damn problem.
The good news for Illinois, though, is that the key to slowing down the Boise State offence is clearly to limit Hutchison. So you can expect to see tons of ball-denial every single time he’s looking to get possession of the rock.
Generally, when you’re playing a team that features one player the way Boise State features Hutchison, you come in knowing the player will score lots of points. The objective, then, is to limit everyone else’s scoring, and try to rattle that one player to the point that they’ll be uncomfortable, and off their game.
Hutchison is a decent three-point shooter—38% this season, to be exact—but is great from the field, overall as he makes 49% of his shots. The Illini should look to run him out of the paint and force him to shoot from distance. Anything you can possibly do to stop him from dropping 30+ on you.
3. Jalen Coleman-Lands Will Be Key.
Coleman-Lands scored eight points coming off the bench for Illinois against Valpo, and thank goodness he did, because starting point guard Te’Jon Lucas did not record a single point in the game.
Jalen has played far less lately than he did earlier in the season, but he has been a quality backup in his diminished role. Will he be called on to pick up the slack for Lucas again? We’ll see. But he definitely will be called on to score points and help his team stay in the game. In a close contest, that will be absolutely invaluable.
Just play good defense and limit Hutchison. Ride your star player in Malcolm Hill and do everything you can to take a lead and stay ahead.
The Illini were thrown into the NIT during a coaching transition, and this was all a very tough situation for the team. Thankfully, they’ve got enough senior leadership to get them through.