November 7, 2007

Big Ten Basketball Preview - Illinois

Illini fans will lament that last season was difficult. The rest of the Big Ten did not take time to feel bad for them as they still finished 5th in conference and earned another trip the NCAA Tourney. This team will boast a very good frontcourt, but the questions will be asked about the guard play.

PG - Chester Frazier - junior PG who is the heart of the team.

SG - Demetri McCamey - freshman combo guard who could really provide this team with a spark.

SF - Calvin Brock - big guard who may start in the small forward position.

PF - Brian Randle - 6'8" senior who will combine with Pruitt to be one of (if not THE) best frontcourt in the league. When healthy Randle is one of the best in the country, but health has been his biggest concern.

C - Shaun Pruitt (pictured right)- All-Big Ten preseason selection and will be the key to Illinois' season.

Key Bench - Trent Meacham - stable guard who provides a serious outside shooting threat
Key Bench - Rodney Alexander - big man, JUCO transfer
Key Bench - Brian Carlwell - 6'11" big man who is recovering from a serious car accident mid-season last year.

Prediction - Not a lot stands out to me about this team. Bruce Weber has done a great job in his short tenure at Illinois but this team seems to be lacking dynamic players in the backcourt and overall depth. I like Randle and Pruitt in the paint but after that there isn't a ton to get excited about. I expect this team to be steady but my gut tells me they are not an NCAA tournament team.

I am saying 7-11 with an 8th place finish in conference. The Illini will be especially hindered by the fact that they play NU and Iowa only once in Big Ten Play. I see a certain 8 losses to the top 4 teams (Wis, Ind, OSU, MSU) then a solid but not flashy 7-4 vs. the rest of the league. A down year in Champaign and time for Coach Weber to show he can recruit to keep the the Illini at the top of the conference.


Bill said...

Uh... he has recruited like a madman this fall. Do you read the trades?

You underestimate Weber at your peril. He's a fantastic coach; no one else in the nation save Donovan could have gotten last year's injury-riddled Illini squad to The Dance.

They'll finish fifth or better and make the tourney. They will beat a couple of the top four on the road.

Oh, yeah... they'll also take the Gophers down hard in The Barn for the ninth straight season. Illinois is 17-2 against UM since 1997.

Tom said...

17-2 since 1997. So they have dominated as their program took off and Minn has been in one of it's worst stretches. Meaningless stat.

I just see a down year for the Illini. No Carter and McBride. They were 9-7 in conference last year and I think the talent level is down this year.

I could be wrong (happened before, will happen again, and these predictions will not be perfect), but this is what I see. I admire Weber a lot.

4 teams are clearly better and I think 4 teams are clearly worse. Illinois will fight with Purdue and Minnesota in the middle.

Tom said...

Also, Weber's big commitments are 2009 recruits. They are high school juniors and their impact won't be seen for 2 more years (at the earliest).

And let's remember that he had Eric Gordon as an early commit too. Lots of time and a lot can happen before they arrive on campus.