The Illinois Fighting Illini have fought their way to a 6 – 1 opening record and look to be one of the biggest surprises out of the Big 10. Illinois narrowly lost away from home to the then-No. 15 Miami Hurricanes, but next to that have coasted to a promising start.
However, next up for the Fighting Illini are the undefeated No. 6 Villanova Wildcats in the Jimmy V Classic, which will be on Tuesday, Dec. 9, at 7 PM ET on ESPN.
Villanova has two wins over top 25 opposition in Michigan and VCU and have coasted to an 8 – 0 record. There is no one star player to point to on this team as the focal point, which is one of the many reasons why the Wildcats are so dangerous. Eight total players average more than seven points per game and around 20 minutes.
The key match-up in this one will be whether Jay Wright’s defense can handle the explosive Illini offense. Rayvonte Rice is an elite shooter, but Villanova is 14th in the nation in steals. Rice has to finish well and protect the ball, or this could be a long night for Illinois.
If these two teams meet in the tournament, I expect the match-up to be a completely different story. However, at this point in the year, Illinois does not have the composure to break down a Villanova squad that, in my opinion, is one of the deepest and most well-rounded teams in all of college basketball.
Prediction: Villanova 76, Illinois 68