NCAA Preview: The Fighting Illini

Last year Illinois made it all the way to the Final 4 and the championship game only to lose to NCAA champion North Carolina by a very small margin. Last year they were led by Dee Brown as well as Deron Williams. Williams has moved on to the NBA but Dee Brown wanted to go back to Illinois to improve his game before he went to the NBA. Now he hopes to lead them back to the championship game. Here’s how this year’s team stacks up:

The leader of this team is without question Dee Brown. The senior guard averages 14 points, 5.6 assists and 3 rebounds a game. He is a good defender with 1.5 steals per game as well. Brown is extremely quick and fast and is a true point guard who leads his team’s offense. At times he can step up and be an offensive scorer but he needs to be more consistent. Still when he enters the NBA draft next year he will go mid to high first round in the draft. His senior leadership should also lead this team deep into the tournament.

Another good senior on this team is Center and power forward James Augustine. At 6’10 he has size and is an excellent rebounder. He averages 13.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and almost 2 assists per game. Augustine plays with tremendous passion and energy during the game. He is very athletic and a great defender as proof of his rebounding numbers. He is a very good passer and has good hands at his size. He can also handle the ball off the dribble. He still needs to slightly improve his scoring and become stronger in the low post.

The presence of upperclassmen continues with junior guard Rich McBride. At 6’3 he plays shooting guard along side Dee Brown. He averages 10 points, and a few assists and rebounds a game. McBride needs to improve his passing ability in setting his teammates up for easy baskets. He is also inconsistent and a very streaky shooter. When he is hot no one can stop him but he has a lot of cold streaks. He also needs to improve his defense.

Scoring and leadership seems to slowly decline with their fourth scorer, Sophomore Forward Brain Randle. At 6’8 he plays small and power forward. He averages 8 points and about 5 rebounds a game. At times Randle is a good shooter and he can step beyond the 3 point line and hit the shot. He spaces out the floor and is a decent rebounder. However his scoring needs to be more consistent and so does his defensive rebounding in order for Illinois to have a chance.

Finally at the center and power forward spot is sophomore Shuan Pruitt. He averages 6 points and 5 rebounds a game. Pruitt is a good role player but doesn’t play that many minutes because of his inconsistency. At his large size he should be averaging a lot more rebounds.

How far can Illinois go? Coach Bruce Webber leads this very experienced squad in a tough regional bracket in D.C. They must pass through the likes of Michigan, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and UCONN. The road to the Final 4 is tough and I think they will fall to UCONN in the bracket.

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