Mountaineers aim to stay perfect

Mountaineers aim to remain perfect

Malcolm Hill has been remarkable through the first five games for Illinois. But will the senior encounter trouble against No. 19 West Virginia’s unrelenting press?

The two schools meet this afternoon, with a 2:30 p.m. ET tip at Barclays Center. Online sports book Bovada.lv gives Bob Huggins’ squad odds of -295 to prevail. The Fighting Illini, on the other hand, embody +235 underdogs.

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After recording 614 points, 223 rebounds and 112 assists as a junior, Hill’s upping the ante even further in his final college campaign. Not only is the former Belleville East prep star the Big Ten’s second-leading scorer, he’s shooting a ridiculous 48 percent from beyond the arc. Tracy Abrams, Michael Finke and Maverick Morgan form a rock-solid supporting cast, too.

Nonetheless, John Groce’s troops are coming off an 84-80 loss to Winthrop. Illinois committed 22 turnovers in that overtime affair, which could portend doom vs. the Mountaineers’ trap-happy approach. WVU has hammered Mount St. Mary’s, Mississippi Valley State and New Hampshire during the past two weeks.

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Groce would love nothing more than to pull off an unexpected victory in the NIT Tipoff. However, his counterpart on the sideline excels at keeping transformational players under wraps. And a quieter Hill means quite the predicament for the Illini.

 

THURSDAY NCAA FREE PICK: ILLINOIS/WEST VIRGINIA OVER 153.5 POINTS

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