2K Sports Classic Preview: Illini Ready to Run the Table?


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The pre-season tournament season is upon us and The Sports Bank is your home for in-depth previews to get your Feast Week watching ready.  The 2K Sports Classic college basketball tournament that benefits Coaches vs. Cancer has already tipped off with pod play but hits the main stage of Madison Square Garden Thursday and Friday with big-time programs Pitt, Illinois, Texas, and Maryland getting great early season tests.

By: David Kay

Pitt vs. Maryland, 6:00 pm, ESPN2

What to Watch:
The Terps have three freshmen guards who have seen valuable minutes and might have issues with Pitt’s veteran backcourt and their ability to pressure the ball.  That includes Brad Wanamaker who is doing it all early this season, averaging 19.3 points, 6.3 assists, 5 boards, and 2 steals per game.  Panther big man Gary McGhee should also be able to slow down Maryland’s Jordan Williams inside.  Williams is averaging 21 points and 13.7 rebounds through three games.

Pitt will likely be without starting forward Nasir Robinson again.  Robinson was hoping to return from knee surgery in time for these two games, but that appears to be a long shot at this point.

Prediction: Pitt 76, Maryland 63

Illinois vs. Texas, 8:00 pm, ESPN2

What to Watch:
Both teams boast talented backcourts so this game will likely come down to the bigs.  Illinois has the size advantage starting 7-1 Mike Tisdale and 6-9 Mike Davis while bringing seven-foot freshman Meyers Leonard off the bench.  The ‘Horns have a smaller frontcourt with 6-8 freshman Tristan Thompson and 6-6 Gary Johnson logging most of the minutes.  I do not see how Texas will be able to stop the Illini inside and that could be the difference.

Jordan Hamilton TexasOn the other hand, the Longhorns’ Jordan Hamilton could cause issues for Bill Cole.  Hamilton is an extremely talented scorer who gets a little shot happy at times but is just quicker than Cole.  Expect to see Bruce Weber turn to athletic freshman Jereme Richmond to try and contain Hamilton.

Prediction: Illinois 71, Texas 64

Maryland vs. Texas, 4:00 pm, ESPN2

What to Watch:
It will be a tough stretch for whoever loses this game will drop their second in as many nights but that is the risk of playing in these tournaments.  The Jordan Williams/Tristan Thompson match-up inside should be a treat to watch.  The Terps have the length on the wing to slow down Jordan Hamilton but I think the Longhorns guard play will be the difference in this one.

Prediction: Texas 83, Maryland 75

Demetri McCamey Illinois

Pitt vs. Illinois, 6:00 pm, ESPN2

What to Watch:
I think the Illini have more talent, but Pitt is the better team.  With that being said, if Demetri McCamey, Brandon Paul, and D.J. Richardson can keep up their hot shooting from three, I think Illinois has the advantage.  They will also have ratchet up their toughness as the Panthers are always one of the better rebounding teams in the country and also cut down on their fifteen turnovers per game.  I am going against my better judgment here and going with skill over “team.”

Prediction: Illinois 66, Pitt 63

David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and The Washington Times Communities.  You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.

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