Illini guard D.J. Richardson can’t seem to find his shot

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After starting 12-0 the Illinois Fighting Illini are 2-3 in their last 5. And one of those wins was rather ugly. A big reason for their recent struggles is the ramped up level of competition as Big Ten play has begun. But it’s also they fact the team lives and dies by the three, and no one was more so than senior guard D.J. Richardson. Of all his field goal attempts on the season, only 46 have been of the 2-point variety. The three is D.J.’s game so when it’s off, so is he, as are the Illini?

Richardson has always been streaky, he’s had major struggles with his shot at various times during his college basketball career, but this slump could be his worst. Or it seems that way since the Illini are ranked so high and playing in so many high profile games?

Maybe it’s time for Coach John Groce to sub Joseph Bertrand in the lineup for Richardson?

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#11 Illini crush #8 Ohio State, rebound literally and figuratively

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This is what it’s like to rebound: both winning the battle on the glass and coming back from a loss. In their last three games (Mizzou, Auburn and Purdue) the Illini got owned on the backboards and went 1-2. In their Big Ten opener Illinois got upset by a .500 Purdue team. The loss was shocking, but the #11 Illini recovered nicely, CRUSHING the #8 Ohio State Buckeyes 74-55 in their conference home opener. They won the battle of the boards 40-30.

It was their second win over a top ten team this season, and their most lopsided defeat of a top ten ranked Big Ten team since 1954. Although it appears both teams in this one are over-ranked and overrated. Or it’s just that no one will be able to win on the road in the Big Ten this year. Either way, it was Illinois’ best defensive effort of the year by far, and a career game for center Nnanna Egwu.

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Illini seniors D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul lead the way

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The Illinois Fighting Illini suffered their first loss last night to Mizzou, but they’re still 12-1. And nationally ranked. I think any Illinois fan would have taken 12-1 at this point when the season started. This Illini team will go as far as their seniors will take them. And I’m not talking about Tyler Griffey. Four year starter guards D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul are the keys to the Illini maintaining that top ranking and getting a high seed in March. And then doing something with it.

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#63 Illinois Fighting Illini: College Basketball 111 in 111

Welcome to The Sports Bank’s third annual college basketball season preview series.  Two years we looked at 99 teams in 99 days.  Last year, we were slightly more aggressive and expanded to 111 teams in 111 days and will do so again as we look ahead to the 2012-2013 season.

We will rank the 75 power conference teams and top 36 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order.  We’ll break down rosters, transfers, incoming freshmen, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.

After several years of underachieving, Bruce Weber was shown the door as Illinois Fighting Illini head coach and replaced by Ohio’s John Groce.  There is still decent enough talent left on the Illini roster but can Groce right the ship in his first year in Champaign?

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Embattled Illini avoid first winless February since 1907

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The college basketball season is only five months long, so any time you’re talking about a winless month, it’s not a good sign. And in their seventh and final game of the year’s shortest month, the Illini would not come up short.

They picked up a 65-54 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes, avoiding the February donut, which hasn’t happened to the program since 1907.

The Illini also improved their record vs Iowa at home to 61-14 all time; they’ve won 11 in a row at Assembly Hall vs. the Hawks and seven in a row overall against the team from Iowa City.

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Just how shaky is Illini coach Bruce Weber’s Job Security?

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The Assembly Hall crowd in Champaign called for Bruce Weber’s head. Illini fans in B Section screamed “pack your bags” and “I can draw up a better offense.” This has gone on for years, except this time there was one major difference- No one in the orange and blue crowd stuck up for Bruce.

And this happened during one of this year’s signature wins, a victory over a top ten Michigan State team. Illini Nation seems to be totally fed up with Weber. He’s about as well liked as point guard Sam Maniscalco, who acts like a black hole in the offense. His field goal and three-point percentages are so low that on those rare occasions he hits a shot, it seems like a miracle has occurred.

Down at courtside on this night you could hear Weber screaming “MOVE MOVE MOVE!” Because there’s just no motion in his motion offense; a system that has produced only a .500 record in conference since the Champaign Campaign national runner-up year of 2005.  And Mansicalco is a big example of what’s wrong with Weber’s decision making: giving more playing time to grindy, hustle players instead of the talented ones.

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Illinois Fighting Illini Tournament Resume: Strengths and Weaknesses

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In our latest NCAA Tournament projection, we have the Illini as a #9 seed in the South Regional. Since February is pretty much here- time to think about who needs to shore up the old resume for selection time come March.

At 16-6, 5-4 in conference, RPI 37, SoS 26 and 5-4 and vs the RPI top 50 their profile looks very solid, but not extraordinary. Including that BAD loss at Penn State (WTF is up with that? Seriously, a top notch program like Illinois being dominated in recent years by a program which has like 15 whole fans?).

Half their wins look hideous on paper but that doesn’t really matter. This isn’t based on the polls which can be influenced by margin of victory.

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Spartans’ Leading Scorer/Rebounder Draymond Green Leaves Game With Serious Leg Injury

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The Big Ten’s leading rebounder, and best player on the nation’s 9th ranked team may be out for awhile. Michigan State forward Draymond Green seriously hurt his left leg in tonight’s mild upset loss to the Illini, and left the game with 3:50 left, unable to walk on his own power.

Green was down on the Assembly Hall floor in Champaign for quite awhile, and after examination was able to hop over on his one good leg to the MSU bench.

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Michigan St.-Illinois Game Just Like Overall Series: Very Tight

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Entering tonight’s contest, the Michigan State-Illinois series was tied at 55. The last 13 games in the series have been decided by 10 points or less, and this was no different. And the #9 Michigan State Spartans fell to the Illinois Fighting Illini 42-41.

There was really ugly offense in the first half, by both teams.  A 22-20 score is often the result when one team’s best player shoots 2-8 from the floor, and the other team’s best player sits with foul trouble. D.J. Richardson was pretty much the entire offense for Illinois in the first half, scoring 7 of the team’s 22 points.

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2011-12 Illini Have Competitive Advantage over ’10-’11 Version

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It’s rather ironic when you think about it. Last year’s Illini basketball team entered the year with exceedingly high expectations; the theme was last dance for a talented senior trio. This year’s team entered with zero expectations. The theme was rebuilding and re-establishing. Yet, if it were somehow possible to get the two teams to play each other I’d pick this year’s squad every single time.

For argument sake, the game would have to be with a cloned subset of the players who were on both teams, I mean 2011 Meyers Leonard would be on the roster of last year’s team and 2012 Meyers Leonard would be on this year’s team.

And I still think last year’s squad had more overall talent; but this year’s squad has much more heart and the ability to handle both success and failure.

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Illini Basketball MVP Thus Far: Sam Maniscalco

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Where would the Illlini be without Sam Maniscalco? What would become of their point guard situation if the three time team captain at Bradley, All-Missouri Valley second team pick wasn’t eligible after his transfer this season? Illinois didn’t play very well, but they did make it three straight wins in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, and snapped a three-game skid vs. Maryland in the event. It also makes it two in a row versus the Terrapins as Illinois beat them in Madison Square Garden in the Coaches vs. Cancer classic.

The illini won 71-62, largely because of Maniscalco who scored a game high 24 on 6-11 shooting, 5-8 from three. But what the stat book doesn’t show is how critical Sma’s buckets really were. One triple gave them their first lead since the opening minute 42-41 down the stretch. Another trey stretched the lead to 7 inside 8 minutes to go giving Illinois their first semblance of breathing room in the game. And when the Terps cut the lead to 5 with under a minute left, Maniscalco drove to the whole and got a huge bucket.

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How’s the Illini Point Guard Situation Coming Along?

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Heading into this season, the Illinois Fighting Illini had some questions to answer at “the one.” Two games in, they still do.  Demetri McCamey, as inconsistent and polarizing as he was, provided minutes and some sense of stability.

The situation was helped this offseason when Bradley transfer Sam Maniscalco became eligible. He provides a steady veteran hand while PG of the future Tracy Abrams gets his feet wet. Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson can bring the ball up in times of need as well.

And looking ahead in recruiting, the Illini recently added Michael Orris.

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