Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A-Rank Illinois

Illinois being toward the end of the A-Rank was partially due to the lack of TV games for me to DVR, but also because they are tough to figure. They have 5 returning freshman who played to varying degrees last year, and 2 transfers. In addition, one of the known quantities Senior guard Abrams got hurt and removed a player who surely would have been a starter. After several games it is becoming more clear which of these guys will play, but I'm still a bit uncertain about how good this team is.

Illinois has a 3 player rotation at center. Senior Egwu has filled out some, but is still not very physical. He does not have an interior game but has a good mid range jumper and has extended his range to the 3 point line. He blocks some shots but is not a great rebounder for his size. First off the bench is one of the 5 sophomores Morgan. He has played limited minutes in every game and didn't contribute much. Against Baylor he just didn't look like kid that is ready to play at this level yet. Last year and this year he has been a hacker. In his last 2 games against Indiana St and Baylor he has played 15 minutes and committed 8 fouls. Sophomore Colbert is the 3rd center and looks even less ready to play than Morgan. He did not get as many minutes as Morgan last year and will not be much of a contributor. He has similar issues with fouling, 6 games, 52 total minutes, 16 fouls.

On the other end of the spectrum IL has 2 point guards that split the minutes. Starks is a senior transfer who is short at 5'9" and very aggressive on the offensive end. He shoots the 3 well but does not shoot well overall. This was also the case at Oregon St where he shot 37% and 40% from 3, but just 40% and 39% overall in his 2 seasons there. He has been an efficient passer with 3.5 apg to 0.5 TO/game. His backup sophomore Tate is a very different player. Tate is a big point at 6'3" and is a much better defender. He is more of a true point and also passes well 3.3apg to 1.0 TO/game, but he is an atrocious shooter. He shot 26% from the floor last year and has somehow been worse this year shooting just 21%. He is 1-3 from 3 this year after shooting .043 last year (that's 1-23) ouch.

The middle is much better for IL. They start and play much of the game with 4 guards and they don't turn the ball over much. Senior Rice was an instant impact player last year after transferring from Drake, scoring the ball and rebounding well for his size. He is not an efficient scorer though, shooting about 43%FG in his career and less than 30% from 3 while taking about 4 3FGA/game. Sophomore Hill appears to have made the biggest jump of the 5, and is the only one in the starting lineup. He is much more confident and aggressive shooting the ball and getting to the FT line. I worry he will be limited because he is playing out of position. Against teams like Indiana it won't matter, but there will be a lot of teams that will guard him with a much bigger player and force him to guard one too. Transfer junior Cosby is the last starter and is just a shooter. He doesn't give you much else. Sophomore Nunn comes off the bench to provide some scoring. He is a better shooter than Hill, but is not as physical. He does not get to the line at all, and does not rebound much. Freshman Black has looked pretty good early in the season scoring and rebounding. He gives IL some size at 6'7" but has been foul prone.

IL has been a high volume team and is currently 5th in the country in scoring. Against Miami, IL has been doing what they do, jacking up shots and not turning the ball over. I don't think this works against good teams as they will wear IL down with size. IL doesn't get easy points in the lane or at the FT line, and that is not a recipe for consistent offensive success. I think this team looks like a lot of other Big Ten teams I have seen this year in that they are an OK team, but one that will probably be on the bubble come selection Sunday.

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