Mar 16, 2023 - Sports

What the Illini should expect ahead of Arkansas March Madness matchup

Photo of a basketball player celebrating on the court

Coleman Hawkins reacts after making a basket during the Big Ten tournament. Photo: Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

Today, both the Northwestern and Illini men's basketball teams play in the Midwest region of the NCAA tournament.

Why it matters: It's always nice to have a rooting interest in March Madness.

State of play: The Illini will take on the Razorbacks from Arkansas at 3:30pm.

  • The Illini hope to rebound after getting bounced early in the Big Ten tournament game.
  • Coach Brad Underwood's team, led by Texas Tech transfer Terrence Shannon Jr., has been inconsistent this season.

Three hours later, Northwestern will face Boise State.

  • This will be only the second time the program has made the NCAA tournament.
  • Senior guard Boo Buie is averaging over 17 points a game.

The other side: The Razorbacks went to the Elite 8 last year, so they are no slouches.

We turn it over to our colleague at Axios Northwest Arkansas, Worth Sparkman, to give us the inside scoop on what the Illini should expect:

  • "The Razorbacks had a great recruiting class, so fans' expectations were high. But the team is inexperienced, so head coach Eric Musselman was challenged to pull the puzzle together and get them working like a team."
  • "On top of that, the squad has been plagued by injuries and inconsistencies in play. It's time for Nick Smith Jr. and Trevon Brazile to step up and be focused on this game as Razorbacks."

The bottom line: The last time the Illini played Arkansas was in 2004. The Illini won that game and are 5-0 lifetime against the Razorbacks.


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