An extremely disappointing season has just ended for the Fighting Illini.
They were expected to be a NCAA tournament team but ended up settling for the NIT as a No. 1 seed. They won the first two games, but lost to the Dayton Flyers, 77-71, last week.
This was a rough ending to a season that has left the Illini faithful in shambles. Illinois was out-hustled, out-shot, and out-coached.
Dayton is easily one of the best teams in the NIT, but Illinois did not come ready to play. Dayton saw this and took advantage of it by controlling the Illini from beginning to end.
And with the blink of an eye, the Illini's season was over.
Illinois still has a very bright future ahead, though, so Illini fans have nothing to worry about. They only lose one player, Dominique Keller, and they have the No. 6 recruiting class coming in, per Scout.com.
So I have put together a slide of what I think coach Bruce Weber's starting lineup should be starting off next year, and a prediction of how they will do.
Enjoy, and don't be afraid to leave a comment and voice your opinions and thoughts!
McCamey was the guy who held this team together this year. In games where they needed him to step up to even have a chance, he did.
He is the leader on this team, and the one who can lead this team to success.
He has a great ability to pass, shoot, and dish the rock. He really started to prove that he could play once he was a sophomore, and responded with another fantastic season again this year.
He averaged 15.1 points, 7.1 assists, and 3.6 rebounds per game this season. He obviously had the statistics to show his superb skills, but two things he lacked most of the time were discipline and self-motivation.
If he can learn these skills, he will be a premiere player in the Big Ten. He has all the intangibles it takes.
He can lead this team to be success they had been craving for this year. But he has to work hard during the offseason to help him reach his full potential.
There is no doubt he will be a starter next year. But there is also a rumor that he is considering entering the NBA draft.
If he does leave, I am unsure who will be the starting point guard for this team. There is one thing that is certain, though; he is a leader on this team, and if he departs, it would be detrimental for this team.
After winning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors in the coaches poll, Richardson is poised to have another great season. He will set the bar even higher next year, and hopefully he will be able to reach it.
This year was a roller-coaster for Richardson. He'd have some great games and then play horribly the next time out.
I would have to blame this primarily on his inexperience in college basketball, due to him being a true freshman. But, as the season went on, you could really see his game improving dramatically, and that is why I am so excited to see how he will contribute to this team next year.
He adds a great shooting aspect to this team. He has a sweet stroke and can really light it up when he gets in a groove. Illinois will need more consistency out of him next year, though, if the Illini want to have any shot of contending for a Big Ten championship.
If he cannot play to his full potential, there is no need to get completely stressed out about it. The team has another outstanding sophomore-to-be, Brandon Paul.
Richmond is an extremely dynamic player. He is 6'8" and can basically do everything—he is quick, a great dribbler, can pass the ball thoroughly, can block shots, and has a fantastic jumper.
That is exactly why he is ranked as the No. 3 small forward by Scout.com. He has the intangibles to become a "star" in college basketball.
With hard work and determination, I am convinced that he could be a top player in the country by his sophomore or junior year.
The reason I support my prior accusation is because he just led his team to a third place finish at the Illinois State Basketball Tournament. He was a key contributor during his team's victory in the third/fourth-place game. He totaled 36 points and 16 rebounds over the course of the game.
Although he will be young and inexperienced next year, he can be a key asset to this team if he can contribute consistently.
Davis is another senior Illinois will have coming back. He had some shining moments this year, and he had some moments he will want to forget. Before every game, I was always wondering which Mike Davis would show up.
When he showed up to play, he was probably one of the best players on the team. He could shoot, rebound, and motivate his team. He looked like he could play with some of the best players in the country, and he made Illinois fans excited. He had a very nice shot, and it's particularly nice at free-throw range.
He also had moments where he looked lackadaisical, though. It looked like he had no interest in even playing. These are the game where Illinois tended to struggle the most. That is why they need Davis to step up and be a leader for the Illini next year.
I think he will return as a starter, but there has been rumors that Weber is considering starting Meyers Leonard, one of Illinois' top recruits next year.
When next year rolls around I think that Davis will remain as the starter, though, and I support this due to him having more experience and knowledge of college basketball.
Tisdale is a seven-foot player who can dominate or struggle greatly. In my opinion, he is the most improved player on this team. He has become an important post presence while still having the ability to shoot from outside.
I think next year he will be a top center in the Big Ten. One thing that may hurt him, though, is his body build. He is not what we would refer to as "bulky." But he has been working on it during the course of his career, and it had been working a little bit.
There is no question with his experience at the center position that he will be a starter. I just hope that he is able to provide a big enough spark next year to keep this team competitive with the top teams in the Big Ten.
There is some positive news if Tisdale is not performing, because we have an outstanding recruit coming in—Meyers Leonard.
He is tall, athletic, and a great shooter. He's a top high school prospect, and he will be a great addition to this team. Check out this absolutely amazing dunk by Leonard, and do not forget he is seven-feet tall:
I believe this team has a very legitimate shot to win the Big Ten championship. It returns all of its starters and adds the No. 6 recruiting class. There is no way to argue that the Illini do not have the ability to dominate.
So...what could keep them from having an outstanding year?
I think if there is one thing that will hold this team back, it will be a lack of consistent effort. That is one thing that plagued the Illinois team this year.
These players had the talent to put together an NCAA tournament run this year, but lack of effort and concentration kept them form reaching their highest level of success.
Illinois fans are getting tired of inconsistent and lazy play by our football and basketball teams. But Weber is bringing some hope for Illinois athletics. This Illinois team has what it takes to be "Elite," but only time will tell how they will mesh together.
We have seen, particularly with North Carolina, that talent does not mean everything. It has to do with how players work and communicate together, which I hope Illinois can do quickly, so we can enjoy next season.
As we wait for the upcoming season, I wish Weber, and everyone else within the Illinois men's basketball program, the best of luck during the offseason and during the 2010-11 season.
Prediction: 20-plus wins and a second-place finish in the Big Ten.