Villanova enjoyed success two weeks ago competing against and defeating a pair of ranked teams in Brooklyn.
Now the seventh-ranked Wildcats head to Manhattan and Madison Square Garden for another showcase matchup, this one in Tuesday night's Jimmy V Classic against Illinois. The Fighting Illini were ranked 24th last week before a loss to Miami knocked them out of the top 25.
"This is going to be a hell of a game," 'Nova coach Jay Wright said. "You love these games at this time of year."
On their most recent trip to New York, the Wildcats defeated Virginia Commonwealth (ranked 14th at the time) and Michigan (then No. 19) to win the Legends Classic at the Barclays Center. The 60-55 victory over the Wolverines came down to a pair of clutch plays by JayVaughn Pinkston, who hit the go-ahead basket at one end and blocked a potential winning shot at the other.
Now Villanova takes on another Big Ten opponent. Like the Wildcats, the Fighting Illini (7-1) have a deep rotation in which seven players average 7.3 points or more.
"They're good," Wright said. "They're similar to us. They've got great depth, a lot of people can score. And they've got good balance - perimeter players, good post players."
Illinois has a steady scorer in 6-foot-4 senior guard Rayvonte Rice, a transfer from Drake who leads the team in scoring average (17.4), rebounds (7.3), steals (2.1), and minutes played (27.8). Sophomore guard Malcolm Hill averages 13.9 points and junior Aaron Cosby, a transfer from Seton Hall, is scoring at a 9.9-point clip.
Dylan Ennis leads the Wildcats in scoring at 12.3 and Darrun Hilliard is at 10.5.