[2:55 PM] Illinois v. #19 West Virginia

What will be the GAME RESULT?

Illinois: Wins or Single Digit Loss

#19 West Virginia: Wins By Double Digits


West Virginia’s success is predicated on its intimidating “Press Virginia” defense, but the No. 17 Mountaineers suddenly possess another weapon as they meet Illinois on Thursday at the NIT Season Tip-Off in Brooklyn, N.Y. West Virginia shoots 50.5 percent from the field – which would be by the far the best percentage in coach Bob Huggins’ 10 seasons at the school – and helps explain why it scored 98 points per game in winning its first three contests by an average of 42.7 points.

The Fighting Illini sailed to a 4-0 start, winning by an average of 25.3 points, before committing 22 turnovers and shooting 9-for-16 from the free-throw line in a stunning 84-80 overtime loss to Winthrop on Monday.

The Mountaineers’ defense faces its stiffest challenge in 6-6 senior guard Malcolm Hill, a Big Ten all-preseason team selection who averages 20.6 points and 7.8 rebounds, and scored 40 in a 79-64 victory over Northern Kentucky on Nov. 13. Senior guard Tracy Abrams averages 12.8 points and 3.6 assists while 6-10 sophomore forward Michael Finke (12.4 points, 7.4 rebounds) adds punch to a lineup that is shooting 50.5 percent from the field.

Senior forward Nathan Adrian paces the Mountaineers with 13.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game while junior guard Jevon Carter (4.3 assists, team-most 3.0 steals), freshman forward Lamont West and Ahmad all average 10.7 points. The Mountaineers do a good job taking care of the ball as their 65 assists versus 34 turnovers attest and lead the nation with a plus-15.7 turnover margin.

West Virginia senior F Brandon Watkins (8.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 12.5 minutes) and junior F Elijah Macon (5.5, 2.0, 14.0) were benched for the New Hampshire game because they were late, but according to Huggins will play Thursday “as long as they can read the clock this time.”


StreakSmarts Pick: #19 West Virginia: Wins By Double Digits

Confidence: 5/10

StreakSmarter Pick