>To say that the University of Illinois’ Men’s Basketball team has been under some major scrutiny since its title game appearance would be putting things nicely. Bruce Weber has been criticized for not winning an NCAA Tournament game since 2006 or poor recruiting (which has drastically changed in the past two years), fans have been unkind to Coach Weber. Until this year that is. Pretty much the entire team returns for the 2010-2011 season and Weber adds a trio of recruits who will see major playing time.
Backcourt: The leader of the backcourt, and the entire team, is returning first-team All-Big Ten point guard Demetri McCamey. McCamey led the nation in assists per game, averaging 7.1 dimes per contest. He will lead what is a very young backcourt, one that features two sophomores, two freshmen and a redshirt freshmen. Luckily for the Illini, the two sophomores, D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul, both saw extensive action last season. Richardson was named co-Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
Paul can play numerous positions, ranging from the point to apparently the power forward position, Weber said. He played with one of the lower-level USA Basketball teams this summer and will look to improve on his 7.8 ppg and 3.1 rpg averages from a year ago. Richardson averaged 10.5 ppg last season.
Weber’s two incoming freshman include a younger brother of one of the 2005 stars as well as a McDonald’s All-American. Crandall Head, Luther’s brother, is coming off of a knee injury, but if he is at full strength, and it has been reported he is, he should play a big role for the team. Jereme Richardson, the McDonald’s AA is possibly the biggest recruit Weber has had. He got his commitment after Richmond played his first game of high school.
Frontcourt: As deep as the Illini are in the backcourt, they are just as much so in the frontcourt. The team returns multiple starters and others who have seen tons of playing time. Mike Davis returns at one forward after leading the Big Ten in rebounding with 9.2 per contest. He will be pushed by sophomore Tyler Griffey, who came on strong at the end of last season. Because of the depth, Bill Cole, a team captain, might see him role reduced. Mike Tisdale returns at the center position after averaginf 12 ppg and six rpg. But he will be pushed by freshman Meyers Leonard, a seven-foot blue-chip recruit, who has great handles, hops and runs the floor well for a big man.
Schedule: The team is going to be quite tested by the time conference play rolls around. They start the season in the Coaches vs Cancer Classic, where the potential final four teams could feature the Illini, Texas, Maryland and Pittsburgh. They also host North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. They travel to Seattle to play Gonzaga and play Missouri in the Braggin’ Rights game in St. Louis. In mid-January, the Illini have a three-game stretch where they travel to Wisconsin and host Michigan State and Ohio State. A month later, they have back-to-back games at MSU and OSU