9 things really wrong with Illini basketball right now

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Last night the #23 Illini lost at home to a Northwestern team that has their coach squarely on the hot seat, is reeling from injuries and without their best player in Drew Crawford. The loss was the third in a row by double digits for the Illini, and the three defeats have been even more lopsided than the scores indicate. This shouldn’t be happening to a team that was ranked in the top ten just a few short weeks ago.

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#12 Illini struggle too often in beating bad teams

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The 12th ranked Illinois Fighting Illini have struggled this pre-conference season in blowing out/closing out teams that are supposedly very inferior to them. When you’re a top 15 ranked team, with very solid signature wins over #13 Gonzaga and #18 Butler, you should handle the mid-major and low-major scrubs very easily.

But the Illini don’t do that. They let bad teams hang around. After leading a 5-6 Auburn team by 11 at the United Center, they found themselves up by just one within four minutes to play at the home of the Chicago Bulls. This Auburn team is HORRIBLE. They lost to DePaul, Winthrop at home and Murray St by 20. This never should have been close. But it’s a pattern that’s been continuous all non-conference season.

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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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Illini Open New Season and Court With Victory Over Loyola 67-49

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The state of Illinois has produced only one college basketball national championship, and it wasn’t accomplished by the Illinois Fighting Illini; although they were just a couple 3-pt FGs away in ’05. Depaul made the Final 4 in ’80s glory years under Ray Meyer, but no further. SIU has won a lot of games in March lately, but they haven’t cut down the nets either.

I doubt any of you guessed UIC or Northwestern. It’s actually Loyola, in 1963. The Ramblers also went to the sweet sixteen in 1985, but like all the other college basketball teams in the city of Chicago; they’ve done very little in recent years.

However they gave traditional Big Ten power Illinois all they could handle for about 30/40 minutes, before falling by 18, 67-49 in the season opener for both teams.

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Bradley University Grants Sam Maniscalco His Release


Updating yesterday’s story on Bradley point guard Sam Maniscalco’s possible transfer, Bradley University has granted the senior his realease and given permission to ten schools to talk to him about his services for the upcoming season.

Under the rules of the NCAA’s graduate school waiver, Maniscalco is allowed to transfer and play next season without sitting out a year as long as, at his new school, he transfers into a graduate program that is not offered at Bradley. [Read more…]

Is Bradley’s Sam Maniscalco Transferring to Illinois?


The University of Illinois has spent most of the week preparing for the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis.

Off the court on Thursday, however, they may have gotten the best news that they’ll get before Selection Sunday. [Read more…]

Illini Sign 4 Chicagoans, Net 3rd Straight top 15 Recruiting Class.

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National signing day in college basketball is always very anti-climactic, because all it does is make official what we’ve already known for some time. But it’s still a great chance to summate another year of recruiting, and another class. And it’s very promising to see the Illini locking down their borders by continuing to recruit the Chicagoland area so well. It yielded them the top rated class in the Big Ten.

Illinois head coach Bruce Weber announced today the signing of four student-athletes to national letters of intent in Tracy Abrams, Nnanna Egwu, Mycheal Henry and Mike Shaw.

All four players hail from Chicago and are ranked in the Top 100 by various recruiting services, giving the Fighting Illini the No. 9 class in the nation by Rivals.com, No. 11 nationally by Scout.com and No. 14 nationally by ESPNU. The class also ranks first in the Big Ten by both Rivals and Scout. This marks the third consecutive year that Illinois has signed a Top-15 recruiting class.

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