After tough losses in the opening round of the tournament, Maryland and Illinois face off in the third place game of the 2K Sports Classic this afternoon in Madison Square Garden. So who are the Illini?
Well, they’re very good. Ranked 13th/16th, they lost 90-84 in overtime to Texas last night. Illinois has a balanced and experienced team, with four seniors in their starting lineup. At guard, they start D.J. Richardson (10.5 points per game) and Demetri McCamey (16.5 points and 7.5 assists per game), two good three-point shooters who provide floor leadership. Off the bench, Brandon Paul is averaging 11.2 points per game and is shooting 42.9% from beyond the arc.
Illinois has a great pair of big men, with Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale leading the pack. Tisdale averaged at least 10 points per game in each of the past two years, and the 7’1″ center is averaging 8.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game this season. Davis has been incredibly consistent over the past three years for coach Bruce Weber and Co. His stats over the past three years – 11.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore, 10.7 points and 9.2 rebounds as a junior, and 11.3 points and 8.3 rebounds so far this season.
This is going to be yet another tough game against a well-coached team for the Terps. Unlike Pitt, Illinois is a team that is based more on inside play than outside, so Maryland is going to have to change their defensive strategy. Luckily, Dino Gregory is one of the best defensive big men in the country, and he’ll hopefully be able to lock Davis down. Tisdale has about three inches on Jordan Williams, so it will be very interesting to see how that matchup plays out. This should be another great one in New York.
Prediction? Maryland 71, Illinois 68. Tucker has another good game, and Hawk has a great game off the bench. Illinois is a great game, but I think Maryland will come prepared.