2011-12 ITH Season Preview: Illinois Fighting Illini

  • 10/04/2011 7:49 am in

With the college basketball season inching closer, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next few weeks. Today, we continue our team previews with a look at the Illinois Fighting Illini.

Underwhelming. That one word best describes Illinois’ 2010-2011 season.

Despite returning four seniors and adding a McDonald’s All-American in Jereme Richmond, Illinois finished just 20-14 and failed to win consecutive games after January 6. And although Bruce Weber’s group did manage an appearance (and a win) in the NCAA Tournament, the talent on last year’s roster was certainly capable of much more.

So what went wrong? Illinois failed to rebound and take care of the ball in Big Ten play. Even with senior Demetri McCamey manning the point, the Fighting Illini posted a turnover rate of 20.1 percent — third worst in the conference. On the glass, their offensive rebounding percentage of 30.2 was eighth in the league despite having tremendous frontcourt size.

Defensively, Illinois led the Big Ten in effective field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and 2-point percentage, but finished last in creating turnovers. Chemistry issues likely contributed to the overall turbulence as well.

With the aforementioned senior class and Richmond all departed, junior guards Brandon Paul (9.0 ppg) and D.J. Richardson (8.4 ppg) are the two most experienced players returning to Champaign. They’ll be joined in the backcourt by Sam Maniscalco, a Bradley transfer with immediate eligibility. He’s expected to take over the point guard duties from McCamey provided his surgically repaired ankles hold up. Tracy Abrams, a top 75 guard, will also see time at the point. Myke Henry, a 6-foot-6 wing, should provide a boost of athleticism.

Up front, sophomore Meyers Leonard (2.1 ppg) and junior Tyler Griffey (1.6 ppg) will be forced to take on more prominent roles. Leonard, who played for Team USA’s U-19 team in Latvia this summer, is a potential breakout candidate after being stuck behind Mike Tisdale last season. Freshmen Mike Shaw and Nnanna Egwu, who Weber praised after a recent trip to Italy, will also figure into the rotation.

Bottom line: Illinois will boast one of the least experienced rosters in the conference as Weber lost his top three scorers, top three rebounders and assist leader. Paul, Richardson and Leonard are all solid pieces to build a team around, but Illinois looks like a bubble team heading into the season.

Quotable: “I told the coaches I know I can play 10 [players a game this season] I think I can squeeze in 11. It would be hard to play 12. There’s not enough minutes. I think the biggest thing if you’re going to play all those guys you have to have the right units and you need ones to score. I know we can guard, but can we score?” – Weber after Illinois’ preseason trip to Italy.

PreviouslyNebraska, MinnesotaPenn State, Iowa, Northwestern

Filed to:

  • I don’t see why we can’t finish ahead of  Illinois, they have more questionmarks than we do.

  • Anonymous

    If Bruce lays an egg like last year, he’s gone.  And if he’s gone, Illinois reverts to being just another team in the Big 10 instead of a rival on par with Purdue.  I’ve got mixed feelings about that.  I’d rather see them slink along in mediocrity for a few more years.

  • MillaRed


  • Randy Maxey

    If the Hoosiers only beat one team this year,,,Please let it be Illinois!

  • Kfdchev

    Weber looks more like Roscoe P. Coltrane from the Dukes of Hazzard TV series than he does a basketball coach! Oh my…..them HOOSIERS keekeeekee! I hope that crybaby is gone after this year. Maybe he could get a job combing Keady’s hair!

  • Hoosier Clarion

    No doubt chemistry was the lost ingredient on a talented team last year.  Soprano voiced Brucie cannot create chemistry when the players he recruits tune him out.  I give him 2-3 years and he will be whining in BB obscurity. 

  • MillaRed

    Dear Lord, Thank you for not giving Indiana Bruce Weber. He is the biggest dork in college basketball. For this I am very, very grateful.

  • IU_Fan_99

    I agree… I love to hate Illinois… mostly because of Bruce… without Bruce, the rivalry would not be as much fun…

  • Anonymous

    Hope Brucie isn’t fired for a while. I like our chances when everything else is even and it is Crean versus The Great Whining Soprano.

    I hate Illannoy

    This should be yet another team that will provide us a measuring stick as to where our rebuilding process is at.

    I hate Illannoy

    Hope their next visit to the “real” Assembly Hall brings back a lot of bad memories of their last visit there and we provide them with some fresh ones to take back home.

    I hate Illannoy

    When we beat them at the “real” Assemble Hall again does Crean take it a step further and go wild with the fans inside AND outside ?

    I hate Illannoy

  • Anonymous

    Don’t know what to make of them…they’re could finished anywhere from 5th to 11th and I wouldn’t be surprised. 

    They need Maniscalco to be healthy because Paul isn’t the answer at PG.  He turns the ball over too much and doesn’t involve others well. 

    They also need Shaw and Egwu to step in as freshman, I’m not convinced Griffey can give them anything at PF.  If a guy shoot 32% or so from 2, rebound poorly, and is a 6’9″ post player then I’m not sure he’ll give them much at all. 

  • eph521

    More than Kelvin Sampson? Oh wait, Sampson was a cheater, not a coach.

  • IUfanPurduePhD

    Even more than Calipari?  Really?  Seriously?  Bruce is a whiner, but I don’t think he’s a cheater.

  • Anonymous

    I’m with the professor on this one, while I really dislike him and hate Illannoy as a whole I would have to rank Calislimy as my least favorite “coach” ever for the same reasons as teach. I refuse to even mention the unnamed one since he is not a coach in my book.

    New thread, most hated coach ?

  • Anonymous

    eph521, Alex does not allow using that kind of language on here. The S word is strictly prohibited here. Is that the prohibited word police I hear knocking at your door. Quick deny it and plead imposter, we will back your story up THIS TIME. LOL

  • Anonymous

    Never have liked Weber for a number of reasons; starting with the fact that he’s a Keady protoge. Biggest whiner since LOU-the-DO graced the Illini bench. No indication that Weber cheats. But can certainly tell you that Illinois has had it’s moments in years past.

  • Bleeding Crimson

    I have to disagree, KY first then Bruce.

  • Bleeding Crimson

    I think you forgot to mention that you hate Illannoy.  My three favorite teams. IU and who ever plays KY and Ill.

  • Bleeding Crimson

    Don’t forget that he said’ IU will suck this year” in the past.

  • Anonymous

    I do not like that man.
    No reason we shouldn’t beat them again.  They lost most of their key players, although they have a solid recruiting class coming in.  According to scout.com the class in includes four 4-star players, a 3-star, and a 2-star.  Still would not surprise me if they finish in the bottom half.

  • just wondering

    So what would you say about a team that finished last place in their conference with a 3 – 15 record?

  • Anonymous

    Just making sure there isn’t any gray area when it comes to that subject. I’m with your comment above, while I obviously hate Illannoy, if it came down to losing to one and beating the other and the other is pUKe I would choose beating pUKe every time also. Living in southern IN (aka being close enough to see and smell the disgusting aroma that is pUKe bball ) pretty much takes any guessing out of it for me. I might reconsider if it meant a B10 banner, gave us a # 1 seed in the big dance, wiped out cancer and cured world hunger.