The Fighting Illini return to life on the road for a matchup with a Rutgers team that has seen their share of struggles this season. Still winless in Big Ten play, the Scarlet Knights are averaging 67 points per game (296th in the nation) while allowing nearly 80 points per game (309th in the nation). Neither side of the ball has been particularly great for Eddie Jordan's bunch, and it has certainly been a trying year in Piscataway, but they do boast an excellent scoring guard on offense in Corey Sanders. Sanders' stat line is adequate, averaging about 15 points, four assists, and three rebounds per game. He doesn't have many other playmakers around him, but he's certainly one to watch out for.
As for the orange and blue, the hits just keep on coming. Two key players for the Illini, Kendrick Nunn and Michael Finke, are both listed as questionable for this game after suffering contusions against Wisconsin this past Sunday. Head coach John Groce indicated that Nunn was much more likely to suit up than Finke in his press conference today, stating that it's "highly unlikely" that Michael sees game action tomorrow night. Obviously the Illinois rotation takes another tremendous hit if neither of those players are able to go:
#illini Groce: Three guys available in post against Rutgers are Maverick Morgan, Malcolm Hill and Cameron Liss.— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) February 2, 2016
Yikes. That is most definitely not ideal. Morgan is going to have to play big minutes and Liss, who has yet to play so far this season, might actually see significant playing time. The team is going to need to rely on Malcolm Hill to do most of the workload on offense if they want to come away with their second-straight road victory. While the Scarlet Knights are arguably one of the worst power-five conference teams in the country, they can't be taken too lightly at home, especially considering how undermanned the Illini are.
Illinois leads the all-time series against Rutgers 2-0 and won last year's matchup by twelve points at the State Farm Center. These two will meet up again next week in Champaign for the rematch.
Rutgers is a bad team, but this is a road game for an Illinois squad that is extremely banged up and coming off a two-game losing streak. It will probably be much closer and more ugly than people hope/want it to be, but I ultimately foresee the orange and blue picking up their third conference win, 67-59.
Let us know who YOU think is going to win in the comments below!