Can the Illini Win the 2K Challenge in NYC?

Demetri McCamey Illinois

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

SEMIFINALS:
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 Texas

On
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

THIRD PLACE GAME:
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

2k sports classic logo

CHAMPIONSHIP:
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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