2007 Illinois Fighting Illini Basketball Preview
The Illinois Fighting Illini (23- 12 overall, 9- 7 Big Ten) tied for fourth-place in the conference last season. The last time the club missed the NCAA tournament was in 1999. In 2006- 2007, they lost in the first round of March Madness to Virginia Tech 54- 52. Coach Bruce Weber (112- 28 in four years with Illinois, 215- 82 overall in nine years) has the crew and the coaching skills to get his team to their ninth straight NCAA appearance in the March Madness brackets.
A fine defense, which gave up only 57.1 PPG (first in the Big Ten), helped last season’s weak-scoring Illini. Illinois put in only 64.1 PPG, which was ninth in the conference, and they turned the ball over 14.0 TPG, ranking them seventh in the league. Their .624 foul shooting percentage was worst in the Big Ten.
Senior center Shaun Pruitt (11.4 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 54.9 FG%) and senior forward Brian Randle (7.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 49.6 FG%) are the backbone of this team. Randle brings athleticism and strength to the court; although there are health worries due to two groin operations over the last year. Pruitt, who has dedicated himself to developing his stamina, is a tough inside banger. Junior college transfer Rodney Alexander brings athleticism upfront and forward Calvin Brock (5.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 44.4 FG%) is a physically adept, high-energy guy.
The Fighting Illini backcourt can stop opponents from hitting their shots and covering the college basketball point spreads, but they also have a difficult time knocking in their own attempts. Junior Chester Frazier (7.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 4.5 APG, 35.5 FG%), who has dealt with numerous injuries, will man the point and try to find his shot. The versatile Trent Meacham (5.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 1.7 APG, 37.5 FG%) can play either the shooting or point positions. Frosh point man Demetri McCamey is fast and will play immediately.
The Fighting Illini could be near the top of the heap, and our NCAA predictions this season if everything falls into place. The Big Ten continues to get more and more competitive and last season Illinois did not possess the mental toughness or work ethic to blossom as they might have. Weber has to keep his team focused on working and winning.