2009-2010 Illinois Fighting Illini Basketball Preview
The Fighting Illini of Illinois (24- 10 overall, 11- 7 Big Ten) went to the NCAA title game in 2005. Since that time, they have been competitive, going to March Madness three of the past four years. Last season, the team finished tied for second with Purdue in the conference and then lost to Western Kentucky 76- 72 in the initial round. This season the Bruce Weber-coached Fighting Illini will once again be in the top tier of the Big Ten and travel to the Big Dance.
Illinois was tops in the conference on scoring defense, allowing just 57.2 PPG. They scored an average of 64.8 PPG and hit 35% of their shots from downtown. Both stats placed them seventh in the conference. The Illini were good on 46% of their shots from the field, ranking them second. They were fifth in frees (71%) and in rebound margin (minus-0.1).
Juniors Mike Tisdale (10.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 0.6 APG), who plays center, and Mike Davis (11.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.0 APG), who is at forward, are quality players who have attracted other quality players to the team. Davis, who is athletic and tough, is a first-rate rebounder and premier inside presence. Tisdale, who is seven-foot-even and 235 pounds, worked hard over the off-season to improve his toughness and stamina. Senior forward Dominique Keller (5.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.2 APG) will come off the bench as Illinois goes with a three-guard lineup.
Junior guard Demetri McCamey (11.5 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 4.6 APG) looks ready to take his game to the next level. McCamey, who stands at six-foot-three, lost 10 pounds over the off-season in an attempt to weigh in at a healthy 195 pounds. He’s worked hard on his game and attitude to become an even better player in 2009- 2010. Junior guard Alex Legion (3.5 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.5 APG) has not lived up to expectations. Nationally ranked freshman guards Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson will put pressure on McCamey and Legion. Paul can score in a number of ways and Richardson offers fine “D” skills.
With one of the best incoming classes in the league, a cadre of experienced players and decent depth, the Fighting Illini of Illinois are on an upswing. Although the league looks to be improved, so too are the Illini. They will be competitive and should earn one of the better seeds in the NCAA Tournament. They don’t have the juice to win it all, but they will do better than one and done.