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Illinois vs. Rutgers Game Preview 2017: Illini look to close regular season with 5th straight win

With NCAA Tournament hopes still alive, Illinois can inch one step closer to the dance with a win at Rutgers.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Rutgers William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

Looking to win their fifth consecutive game in conference for the first time since 2013, Illinois travels to New Jersey to take on Rutgers in the final game of the 20116-2017 regular season. Illinois heads into today’s game coming off a win over the Michigan State Spartans on Wednesday night in Champaign. Rutgers enters the contest following a home loss to the Maryland Terrapins last Tuesday.

As the landscape of next week’s Big Ten tournament continues to take shape, it appears that Illinois will likely finish eighth or ninth in conference. That would result in a first round bye for the Illini, followed by a game with either the Iowa Hawkeyes, or the Michigan Wolverines. Experts across the college basketball landscape has Illinois slotted as a bubble team in the NCAA Tournament conversation, and two more wins under their belt would certainly give Illinois a chance to dance. Illinois has not won four consecutive road games in conference since the 2004-2005 season.

Senior Malcolm Hill has averaged 18.8 points per game in his last five starts, and his leadership has been a major reason the Illini are still in the hunt for the postseason. Hill comes into Saturday’s game as the fourth best scorer in Illinois history with 1759 points, trailing Dee Brown by 53. His performance on Wednesday was his eleventh 20+ point game this season, and 32nd of his career. Hill enters Saturday’s contest with the fourth best season scoring average in the Big Ten.

Illinois has beaten Rutgers in every game they have played, including an 82-66 victory at the State Farm Center in February of 2016. The last game played in Piscataway between both teams saw the Illini win a triple overtime thriller by nine points. Saturday will be the second game at Rutgers in the series.

For more on Rutgers, visit SBNation’s On The Banks.

Illinois Fighting Illini (18-12, 8-9) vs Rutgers Scarlet Knights (13-17, 2-15)

When: Saturday, March 4th | 11:00am CST

Where: Louis Brown Athletic Center | Piscataway, NJ

KenPom: Illinois (65th) vs Rutgers (138th)

Television: ESPNU (also available on WatchESPN app)

Radio: Fighting Illini Sports Network