#17 Illinois: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #17
Conference Rank: #4 Big Ten Conference
2009-10: 21-15, 10-8
2009-10 postseason: NIT
Coach: Bruce Weber (173-72 at Illinois, 276-126 overall)
Illinois squandered what was a talented team and with a little consistency they should have been an NCAA team; and a dangerous one at that. Instead they lost five of their last six regular season games and ended up in the NIT. Coach Bruce Weber keeps bringing in the talent, but this team has to prove that they can win. They have too much talent not make the big dance this time around, but it will be interesting to see if this group can pull together and make a serious run.
Key Losses: F Dominique Keller, G Jeff Jordan
Joseph Bertrand would have been the backup point guard last season, but spent his freshman year on the sidelines with an injury instead. This year he will step into that role and should be a fine addition. Crandall Head, the younger brother of former Illini Luther, is an athletic shooting guard who could work his way into the regular rotation. Jereme Richmond is the big recruit and could end up being a major contributor when all is said and done. The frontcourt gets even more depth with the addition of Meyers Leonard. The seven-footer is a little bit of a project, but should give Coach Weber some much needed frontcourt depth.
Demetri McCamey is the player that makes this team tick. The 6-3 senior averaged 15.1 points and an incredible 7.1 assists per game last season. After being named to the first-team All-Big Ten team, McCamey will be looking at some national accolades. And with everybody who started a game last year back, there is little reason to believe that McCamey cannot do just as well during his final season in Champaign. D.J. Richardson won his fair share of awards last season, most notably the conference’s Freshman of the Year Award. Richardson immediately provided the Illini with a consistent outside shooter and used his size and speed relatively well to attack the basket. With a year of experience, Richardson will be an even more dangerous scorer.
The starting five, at least for now, should fill out with Bill Cole, Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale. Cole may not put up great numbers, but he is a great glue guy who does more for this team than his numbers would indicate. Davis struggled at times during his junior campaign, but he did end up with 10.7 points and 9.2 rebounds per contest. If Davis can be more consistent, Illinois should be a solid rebounding team and a great interior scoring team. Tisdale developed into a superb scorer and averaged nearly a dozen points per game. Tisdale has the ability to step outside and hit the mid-range jumper and that can really stretch out the opposing defense.
Who to Watch:
The only other two returning players who saw any quality minutes are Brandon Paul and Tyler Griffey. Paul was a part-time starter last season and could earn more starts this season if Coach Weber wants to play a little smaller. Paul is a capable outside shooter, but failed to be consistent during his freshman campaign. However, he is a good scorer whether he starts or comes in off of the bench. Griffey was another player who had a solid freshman campaign and came on strong at the end of 2009-2010.
Illinois has more than enough talent to compete with Michigan State, Ohio State and Purdue for a conference title, but they did last season too and fell off the radar. This group should easily make it to the NCAA Tournament with a more experienced squad, but how well the newcomers can mesh with the returning talent will be interesting. Coach Weber usually employs a short bench, but that may not work this time around. The freshmen will only have so many minutes to go around. If last year’s freshmen can become more consistent this is a team that should reach the Sweet Sixteen, but those players were pretty good last year and Illinois stumbled to a 21-15 record.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Demetri McCamey, Senior, Guard, 15.1 ppg
D.J. Richardson, Sophomore, Guard, 10.5 ppg
Bill Cole, Senior, Forward, 4.4 ppg
Mike Davis, Senior, Forward, 10.7 ppg
Mike Tisdale, Senior, Center, 11.9 ppg
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