Jeremy Werner

Illini selected to play in NIT

Illinois was selected to play in the NIT on Sunday night and will play Tuesday against Valpo in Champaign.

The post-John Groce era has officially begun, as the Illini were selected to play in the NIT on Sunday -- one day after athletic director Josh Whitman made the decision to fire the program's five-year head coach.

Illinois was given a No. 2 seed in the tournament and they will play Valparaiso (28-6) on Tuesday at 6:15 p.m. CT at the State Farm Center.

The Illini will be led by interim head coach Jamall Walker, who took over duties from Groce on Saturday. They are in the same quadrant as No. 1 seed Illinois State, and the programs could potentially meet in Normal in the quarterfinals.

After winning four straight games down the stretch, the Illini have lost two consecutive games. They lost 62-59 at Rutgers in the regular season finale, and they followed that up with a 75-55 thumping against Michigan in the Big Ten tournament on Thursday.

Illinois last played in the NIT on March 17, 2015 at Alabama and lost 79-58 in a blowout in the first round. The Illini haven't hosted an NIT game since 2010 in the quarterfinals against Dayton, but they fell 77-71. 

Illini senior guard Malcolm Hill will enter the NIT with 1,779 career points, which is fourth in program history. He is 33 points away from tying Dee Brown for third all-time at 1,812.

This is the seventh NIT appearance for the program, which has missed the NCAA tournament for four straight seasons.


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