ACC/Big 10 Challenge

CLEMSON - Just how good was the Big 10 this year? Rayvonte Rice, who averages 15.9 points and 6.1 rebounds for Illinois, wasn't one of the five best players in the Big 10.

WHAT: Clemson vs. Illinois
WHERE: Clemson, S.C. - Littlejohn Coliseum
WHEN: Sunday, March 23 (11 a.m.)
SPREAD: N/A
TV: ESPN (Rich Hollenberg, LaPhonso Ellis)

Rice didn't make the first, second or third-team. Instead, he one of nine honorable mention selections in the league -- that's how good the Big 10 was in 2013-14.

In Illinois' first-round NIT game at Boston University, he played like an All-American. Rice led the Illini with 28 points and eight rebounds in their 66-62 win on Wednesday night.

"He's just a big ol' power wing, a really strong driver of the basketball," Brad Brownell said. "At 235, he's coming at you with weight and strength, good skill level, a powerful player.

"He's one of those guys -- a lot of guys, you get a guy on your hip defensively -- those are hard shots to finish. Elite players can finish those. He's certainly one of those. K.J. [McDaniels] can do that sometimes for us, because of his athleticism.

"Rice does it because of his strength. There aren't a lot of guys out there that are 6-4, 235 driving it down the lane and you're trying to stop them from posting up. He certainly presents problems."

Rice will bring his talents to Littlejohn Coliseum on Sunday for the second-round of the NIT, which tips at 11 a.m.

Getting into the flow, Brownell said, could be an issue early on, not just for Clemson, but for both teams.

"I think, sometimes, when you just wake up and play, sometimes it takes you a couple of plays or some time to get into the flow of a game like that," he said. "I don't know that you're as physical as you would have been if you've been waiting all day for a 7 o'clock tip, frothing at the mouth a little bit to go compete.

"This catches you a little bit. It's not the ideal time, for sure, but we're certainly happy to be playing and certainly happy to be playing in Littlejohn."

The two head coaches have a few things in common.

"Philosophically, I think we both are similar in how the game should: taking care of the ball, grinding out possessions, defensively we're very similar. They're probably 75-80 percent man-to-man with a little bit of zone, a little bit of 2-3. We actually play a similar zone when we play zone, so the same kind of characteristics. They also share a history. Brownell and John Groce first got to know one another while they were assistants in the State of North Carolina. Brownell was at Wright State and Groce was at N.C. State.

"The AD at Ohio U called me when I was at Wright State and was asking about jobs and situations at Ohio U at the time, one of the names he mentioned to me was John Groce and [asked] my thoughts on John," Brownell said. "I told him I thought John was a great coach, would do a great job. He's proven. He's done that. He's very organized, his team plays really hard, very disciplined group. They're hard to beat.

PROBABLE STARTERS
Illinois, 20-14 (7-11 Big Ten)
G #13 Tracy Abrams - 10.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG (6-2, 190)
G #25 Kendrick Nunn - 6.3 PPG, 1.7 RPG (6-2 180)
G #24 Rayvonte Rice - 15.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG (6-4, 235)
G #21 Malcolm Hill - 4.4 PPG, 2.5 RPG (6-6, 210)
C#32 Nnanna Eqwu- 6.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG (6-11, 250)

Clemson, 21-12 (10-8 ACC)
G #12 Rod Hall - 9.7 PPG, 3.9 APG (6-1, 210)
G #20 Jordan Roper - 7.2 PPG, 1.7 RPG (5-11, 165)
G #21 Damarcus Harrison - 7.5 PPG, 2.6 RPG (5-11, 165)
G #21 Damarcus Harrison - 7.5 PPG, 2.6 RPG (5-11, 165)
F #32 K.J. McDaniels - 17.4 PPG, 7.2 RPG (6-6, 200)
C #35 Landry Nnoko - 6.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG (6-10, 250)

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