Early ’14-’15 Illini basketball season preview part 3: FRONTCOURT



When previewing the Illini basketball team for next season, (Yes, it’s not even April and we’re on to part two of our series (here’s part one Illini basketball recruiting) you’ll see there’s an excess of wing players and swingmen. You have a lot of 2s and 3s, but not a whole lot of traditional 1s and 5s. It’s difficult to designate a bunch of guys as “guards” and “forwards.”

Even more difficult, constructing the potential depth chart that John Groce will use. But we’ll attempt that at the end

So we’ll label backcourt players: Tracy Abrams, Ahmad Starks, Rayvonte Rice, Aaron Cosby, Jaylon Tate, Kendrick Nunn, Malcolm Hill. Mike LaTulip will probably not play at all next year, and may even transfer who knows?

frontcourt players: Nnanna Egwu, Michael Finke, Darius Paul, Leron Black, Austin Colbert, Maverick Morgan

Nnanna- was non-existent offensively in mid-season, but showed some life on the offensive end toward the end. Still a really solid defender. Not a great rebounder given his size. Still not all that much was expected of him when he came to Illinois. So he’s done what’s been expected of him and more.

Paul- supposedly he beats his brother, former Illini star and NBA Draft combine invitee Brandon Paul, FWIW. MAC Freshman of the year automatically gives the team something at four. They had “stretch-fours” last year, but here’s a true power forward.

illini basketball

Black- another instant upgrade, as he’s a top 50 national recruit. will be a good dilemma to watch Black and Paul battle it out for playing time. Would be even better position battle if Cliff Alexander had committed like everyone thought he would, but alas. Illini basketball is 21st all time with 13 McDonald’s All-Americans, but they’ve only had two since 2000.

Morgan- was non a factor last year, but big men take time to develop.

Colbert- again, non-factor, but he’s already used his Instagram to squash transfer rumors. THIS IS The Colbert Report


Finke- this is his dream school, and he turned down Iowa and Wisconsin to be here. At 6-9, 210. He needs to put on weight. And again, big men develop slowly.

Here’s one possible Illini basketball depth chart

F Egwu/Black/Morgan

F Paul/Black/Finke/Colbert

G Rayvonte/Cosby

G Nunn/Abrams

G Hill/Starks/Tate

Even when Illini basketball goes big in ’14-’15, they’ll still be going small. So the lineup above is the one I’d go with. But I’m not John Groce, and he knows more than me. Plus I don’t have a point guard starting. That’s a problem. What if we went with a more traditional starting five? The lineup depth chart would look like this. if you wanted to go bigger.

5 Egwu/Morgan.Colbert

4 Black/Finke

3 Paul/Cosby

2 Rice/Cosby/Abrams

1 Starks/Tate/Abrams


Notice something wrong here? It’s missing the two sensational sophs, Hill and Nunn, so where would you slot them?

Which lineup do you think is better? Give me your own Illini basketball starting five and depth chart in the comments section.

OUTLOOK: basketball are 1 of 5 non-NCAA Tournament teams likely to dance next year according to our own David Kmiecik

Illini basketball season preview part 1 RECRUITING

Illini basketball season preview part 2 BACKCOURT

Illini basketball season preview part 3 FRONTCOURT

Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An MBA and Fulbright scholar, he’s also a frequent commentator on national talk radio. The former NBC Chicago and Washington Times contributor has also been featured on the History Channel. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)

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  1. Try these on for size. I would have the first two in each position split time for the early non conference schedule to solidify starting line ups. One thing to keep in mind, the younger players will be developing through out the year and may earn the starting roles later in the season. Of course, chemistry always plays a role in these things not to mention the lineups and strengths of the teams they will play against. With the depth the team has now players can be interchanged more easily and there is less drop off in ability and conditioning. It’s early on but I think they could get 24 or 25 wins during the regular season next year.

    Short lineup

    F Egwu/Morgan/Finke

    F Paul or Black/Colbert

    G Rice or Hill

    G Nunn/Crosby

    G Starks or Abrams/Tate

    Tall line up

    F Egwu/Morgan

    F Paul/Colbert/Finke

    SF Black/Hill

    G Nunn or Rice/Crosby

    G Starks or Abrams/Tate

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