The #16 Illinois Fighting Illini (5-1, 4-0 home) welcome the Syracuse Orange (3-3, 0-0 away) for a non-conference battle in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge presented by Continental Tire. The two teams have played sparsely over the years, facing each other just three times beginning in 1978. Illinois knocked off Syracuse, 92-66, the last time they played back in 1995.
Tuesday’s tipoff is at 7:30 p.m. EST inside the State Farm Center in Champaign, Illinois. Illinois opens as a 9.5-point favorite, and the over/under total is 145 points.
What to Know – Syracuse Orange
Syracuse comes into the week on a two-game slide to a pair of unranked opponents. The Orange, under the direction of long-time head coach Jim Boeheim, currently sit 70th in the KenPom rankings.
The Orange began the season winning three of its first four that included triumphs over Lehigh, Northeastern, and Richmond. An overtime loss to St. John’s was compounded with a surprise defeat at the hands of Bryant on Saturday.
Freshman guard Judah Mintz leads the Orange in scoring, averaging 16.2 points per game. Senior guard Joseph Girard III is second on the team scoring 15.7 ppg, while center Jesse Edwards is averaging a double-double, scoring 14.5 points and grabbing 10.5 rebounds per game.
The Orange are hitting 45.1% of their shots from the field, averaging 74.8 points per game. Defensively, Syracuse is surrendering 70.0 points per game and 40.6% shooting from the floor.
What to Know – #16 Illinois Fighting Illini
The Fighting Illini are off to a hot start to begin the 2022-23 campaign, and the bar is set high in Champaign with a talented roster in head coach Brad Underwood’s sixth season. Illinois is the 22nd-ranked team, according to KenPom.
After opening the year with three non-competitive contests, Illinois knocked off #8 UCLA, 79-70, before dropping its lone loss of the season to then #16 Virginia, 70-61. The Fighting Illini bounced back with another blowout victory over Lindenwood over the weekend.
Texas Tech transfer Terrence Shannon Jr. leads the Illini, pouring in 20.3 points per game. Sophomore forward Dain Dainja is second on the team scoring 13.0 ppg and leading the team averaging 7.0 rebounds per contest. Freshman guards Jayden Epps (11.0 ppg) and Skyy Clark (9.5 ppg) add additional offensive options for Underwood’s team.
Illinois scores 84.7 points per game, thanks to 50.8% shooting from the floor. The Fighting Illini’s defense limits opponents to 61.5 points per contest and 37.9% shooting from the field.
The Pick is In
The Illini’s high-scoring offense will be put to the test against Syracuse’s tough zone defense. Illinois’ only loss this season came to a defensive-minded team in Virginia. Illinois will learn from that loss and use it to its advantage on Tuesday, picking up a victory for the Big Ten in Champaign.
The Pick: #16 Illinois Fighting Illini -9.5