2008 Illinois Fighting Illini Basketball Preview
It was a ninth-place finish last season for the Illinois Fighting Illini (16-19 overall, 5-13 Big Ten). The team did not make a post-season appearance. Coach Bruce Weber, who is now starting his fourth year at the Illini helm, brought the team to the Big Dance in 2006 and 2007—his first two seasons. Now he has to try to get them back to the post-season. If Illinois can secure a NIT berth that will be progress.
The frontcourt is looking for consistency. Center Mike Tinsdale (10.4 MPG, 3.6 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 0.3 APG, 48.2 FG%, 63.3 FT%) has bulked up, but he’s not the banger that this team needs. Junior college transfer Dominique Keller, a tough battler, has a chance at forward. Sophomore forward Bill Cole (6.8 MPG, 2.3 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 0.2 APG, 52.4 FG%, 42.9 FT%) also has a shot at a starting spot. He’s coming off a knee injury. Another sophomore, Mike Davis (10.4 MPG, 2.6 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 0.3 APG, 43.9 FG%, 46.9 FT%), offers promise but needs to find consistency.
The backcourt is solid. Point guard Demetri McCamey (27.3 MPG, 8.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 3.3 APG, 36.4 FG%, 62.7 FT%) has worked hard over the off-season to improve his game. He looks to have NBA chops. Alex Legion, a swingman, transferred from Kentucky last year in mid-season and will be eligible to play after first semester. Talented guard Jamar Smith was dismissed from the team after yet another run-in with the law over alcohol. He was the team’s best player. Senior guard Chester Frazier (33.4 MPG, 4.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.6 APG, 33.7 FG%, 51.9 FT%) is the team’s best defender.
The Fighting Illini are rebuilding with a group of fine recruits
who are scheduled to arrive in 2009 and 2010. This season, the team
should finish somewhere in the middle of the pack, which is certainly
better than last season’s ninth-place mark. If they can get
back to the NCAA Tournament this year, it will be their ninth such
appearance in this decade.