Why The Fighting Illini Can Surprise: Few teams in the nation share the ball as well as Illinois. Demetri McCamey is the team’s best passer, but freshman D.J. Richardson has quickly proven that he can be very effective finding his teammates as well. Even Jeff Jordan, who is averaging 14.0 minutes per game and rarely scores, dished out 1.7 assists per game during the regular season.
McCamey is more than just a passer though. The 6-3 junior is also the team’s top scorer and part of a very underappreciated inside/outside duo. McCamey can hit the three-pointer, but most of his 15.1 points per game come from driving to the basket. The inside part of that duo is 7-1 center Mike Tisdale. Tisdale has been inconsistent throughout the 2009-2010 season, mostly due to foul trouble, but he is solid scorer and has gained enough strength to become a force on the glass for the first time in his collegiate career.
Why The Fighting Illini Can Disappoint: McCamey can hit the outside shot and Richardson has developed into a very consistent shooter from beyond the arc, but that is pretty much it. McCamey is much better off attacking the basket than settling for a long ball and that leaves Richardson as the only legitimate outside shooting threat on the team. Brandon Paul could be the guy who comes in off the bench and provides a quick offensive spark with his outside shooting, but he has only connected on 28.7 percent of his attempts from long range. That lack of consistent shooting from Paul is one reason why he lost his starting job.
Who To Watch: Bill Cole took over the starting job and has given the team another rebounding threat. The 6-9 forward will have trouble defending some opposing small forwards and the Illini will not be able to play big at times, but Cole has had some great games later in the season once his playing time increased. However, Cole is not the important player to keep an eye on in the Illini frontcourt. That honor goes to Mike Davis. Davis is still a double-double machine, but he spent some time in Coach Bruce Weber’s doghouse and the Illini are a much better team on the glass and in the scoring department when Davis is on the floor and producing.
Illinois By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 70.5 (133rd in nation, 5th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 66.5 (135, 10)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.9 (94, 6)
Field-Goal Defense: 39.9 (36, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.9 (191, 8)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 34.0 (171, 7)
Free-Throw Percentage: 71.7 (78, 3)
Rebound Margin: 2.0 (116, 5)
Assists Per Game: 15.8 (23, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.1 (50, 7)
Joel’s Bracket Says:
By Joel Welser
CollegeSports-fans.com Senior Basketball Writer