LAS VEGAS, Nv (WCIA) — Two top 20 opponents on the schedule for Illinois men’s basketball, starting with eighth-ranked UCLA tonight, and the Bruins are no stranger to the big stage. Several players return from that Final Four run two seasons ago, they made it to the Sweet 16 last season.

As a team, Illinois hasn’t made it past the first weekend of the Big Dance since 2005, but transfers Matthew Mayer and Terrence Shannon Jr. have certainly been there, with Mayer winning a national title and Shannon making two deep postseason runs.

The Texas Tech transfer will be tasked with guarding Jaime Jacquez tonight, the preseason All-American wing can do it all on both sides of the court and Shannon says he’s up for the challenge, especially defensively.

“Before I came here, me and Coach Brad talked about me being one of the best defenders in the league and when I’m going against one of the other team’s best players, best guys, it should be an off night for them and that’s something I look forward to,” Terrence Shannon Jr. said.

“I’m excited for that,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said. “Let’s get in the ring and you’re going to get smacked. You better get back in the ring and start throwing haymakers.”

It’s an 8:30 CT tip in Vegas on ESPNU. The Bruins are 3.5 point favorites.

Our coverage leading up to game time continues with the your Illini Nation Pregame Show with Derek Piper from Illini Inquirer. The digital show airs on our social media pages, website and app starting at 7:15.