Saturday, June 20, 2009

2009-2010 Season Preview

The Illini overachieved last year by making the NCAAs, but their season ended quickly with their loss to Western Kentucky in the first round. This fall, expectations are much higher for the Illini basketball team. Preseason polls have the Illini in the top 20, and Joe Lunardi has the Illini as a 3 seed right now, a top 12 team. And we haven't even had midnight madness yet.

Let's start with the losses from last year's team. Basically, we lose a ton of experience at the guard position, Chet Frazier, Trent Meacham and Calvin Brock. And we lose CJ Jackson, who never played much basketball at Illinois, but was very popular with his teammates.

The gains are three talented freshmen guards--DJ Richardson, Brandon Paul and Joseph Bertrand. We have been talking about these guys forever it seems, and now they are on campus getting ready to play. The front line gets deeper with Tyler Griffey as a freshman, and Stan Simpson will be a redshirt freshman after sitting last season. Overall, a loss on the experience side, but these are very talented additions for this fall.

Returning starters are three juniors: Demetri McCamey at PG, Mike Davis at forward, and Mike Tisdale at center. Dominique Keller returns as a versatile forward who can rebound and hit three pointers (my personal favorite player last year). Other experienced players from last season include guards Jeff Jordan and Alex Legion, and seldom-used Richard Semrau at forward/center and Bill Cole, a forward.

Basically, Bruce Weber can start an experienced squad without relying on the freshmen, though I expect 1 or 2 freshmen to crack the starting line-up during the season:

Demetri McCamey PG
Jeff Jordan G
Alex Legion SG
Mike Davis F
Mike Tisdale C

Bench rotation: Keller, Griffey, Cole, Richardson, Paul, Bertrand

Right now, it seems likely that McCamey, Davis and Tisdale are a virtual lock as starters on this team, with Legion, Jordan, Keller and Richardson probably vying for the other two starting positions. But this should be a deep and talented team, that gets much better throughout the season as it matures.

And my hope is Bruce Weber allows this team to run the break, especially when Tisdale is on the bench. We might think of 1989 if we see the following group of athletes on the floor: Davis, Keller, Legion, McCamey and either Richardson or Paul.

For Illini fans, this season is not to be missed.

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