Very Comprehensive 2013-14 Illini Basketball season preview

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For Fighting Illini basketball it was a bitter, unjustified end to a season that far out-kicked it’s coverage. Yes, I’m using a college football metaphor to describe a college basketball season which very pleasantly exceeded expectations. And yes, I’m still bitter about the blown call that even Miami players admitted was a total job.

The Big Ten was the best conference of all this past college basketball season. That will change as a lot of talent graduated and declared for the NBA Draft.

SB Nation’s Purdue site “Hammer and Rails” breaks down all the departures for every team and includes the scoring ppg. averages:

GO HERE FOR THE LIST

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Illinois Fighting Illini Basketball

Definitely Gone:

Brandon Paul – 16.6 ppg, 2.7 apg

D.J. Richardson – 12.3 ppg

Tyler Griffey – 7.2 ppg

Sam McLaurin – 3.8 ppg

Mike Shaw – 3.6 ppg

Ibby Djimbe – 0.2 ppg

Devin Langford – 0.5 ppg

(Myke Henry left after that article was published.)

The first four of those seven are graduating seniors that played a lot of games for the Illini. The last three are transfers that did not play much and recently announced they would be leaving. That’s still a ton of roster turnover. Only Tracy Abrams returns averaging in double figures. Nnanna Egwu was a good defensive player in the second half of the year.

Illinois has to hope a five-man freshman class with three four-star rated players can have a huge immediate impact, especially since two are teammates of Jabari Parker at Chicago Simeon

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Ok, starting off what Hammer and Rails said-

It’s clear the Illini basketball team has two returning starters set in stone. Abrams at the one, Egwu at the five. So do you start three wings?

Or do you add two wings and play a four-man with them?

There wasn’t a legitimate four in Tyler Griffey this past season; he was like Mike Tisdale, a 6’10″+ sized shooting guard. Myke Henry had a couple nice games and Joseph Bertrand can get hot from time to time. Both are listed at 6’6,” so each are a bit undersized for the four. However, one of them should crack the starting five. I think it will Bertrand.

Also, blue-chip downstate recruit Malcolm Hill finished in the top three of Illinois Mr. Basketball voting. Therefore, you have 4/5  2013-14 Illini basketball starters pretty much set. And we haven’t mentioned the Drake transfer Rayvonte Rice who’s now eligible, the two incoming Simeon Wolverines or the possibility of Seton Hall transfer Aaron Cosby. And then what does John Groce do with the two freshman bigs, Maverick Morgan and Austin Colbert?

Well, “THIS IS the Colbert Report!!!”

Actually, it’s not.

Turns out his name is (unfortunately) pronounced “Coal-burt” and I think he’ll be on the bench most of the time. Morgan will get major minutes if Groce decides to go big, but I think it’s already assumed that Groce will go small. Just how small is the question. Rice averaged 16.8 ppg two years ago and 13.8 his freshman year.

We’ve talked about The Colbert Report coming to Fighting Illini basketball but what about The Cosby Show?

Aaron Cosby will have two years of eligibility left after transferring, but he’ll have to sit out this one.

In 65 career games at Seton Hall, he averaged 10.1 points 2.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.  Last season, Cosby made 27 starts and averaged 12.6 points per game. The 6-2, 190-pound Cosby was at his best in big games. He scored 22 points in the Pirates’ loss to Syracuse in the Big East Conference second round and 21 in their win over Villanova on Feb. 25.

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Regarding the two Jabari Parker teammates: Kendrick Nunn is a highly rated recruit who should see substantial minutes on the wing. Jaylon Tate is not ranked quite as high, but still a major talent in his own right. So Illini basketball indeed sees a lot of turnover. How does John Groce juggle it all? Obviously this is highly subject to change, but here’s my guess. I think he’ll go 8 or 9 deep next year.

Illini basketball 2013-14 depth chart

G Abrams/Tate/LaTulip

W Hill/Nunn/Ekey

W Rice/Nunn

F Bertrand/Jon Ekey/Colbert

C Egwu/Morgan/Colbert

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