Illinois Men's Basketball 2014 NIT Tournament Capsule

Illinois Fighting Illini
Big Ten (19-14, 7-11)


It is difficult to know what to expect for this Illinois team. After a 13-2 start, things were looking good for the Fighting Illini. They had some decent wins in that stretch, but the toughest of the Big Ten slate was yet to come. That is when they lost eight in a row, and some in extremely ugly fashion. And then everything changed again when Coach John Groce rallied his troops to beat Minnesota, Nebraska, Michigan State and Iowa down the stretch.

Big Wins: 12/21 vs. Missouri (65-64), 3/1 at Michigan State (53-46), 3/8 at Iowa (66-63)
Bad Losses: 12/3 at Georgia Tech (64-67), 1/12 at Northwestern (43-49), 1/15 Purdue (58-66)
Coach: John Groce (2 seasons at Illinois)

Why They Can Surprise:
Illinois is not going to give up too many points and that can keep them in most games. The limited amount of turnovers is also extremely beneficial in the low scoring, grind it out games that the Illini often find themselves in. Rayvonte Rice and Tracy Abrams deserve credit for limiting the turnovers. But those are also the top two scorers on the team. Rice is a dynamic scorer and a superb athlete who gives the Illini a much needed rebounding presence in the backcourt. Abrams runs the show and now has a decent enough shot to at least keep the opposition honest.

Why They Can Disappoint:
The Fighting Illini offense has had some major issues this year. Most notable was a 43 point outing at Northwestern and a 39 point affair against Ohio State. One would think that holding a team below 50 points would be enough to win, but it wasn’t in those games. Behind Rice and Abrams, who are not always consistent either, the Illini are in dire need of more scoring threats. Joseph Bertrand, Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn are the options on the perimeter. Bertrand, a senior, is a fine slasher, but disappears for games at a time. That has been especially true in February and March. Nnanna Egwu, a 6-11 center, offers a lot to this team on the defensive end, but is not much of a scoring threat. Jon Ekey is a clutch shooter and is willing to try and make a big splash, but during Big Ten play he only reached double figures in the scoring column four times.

Probable Starters:
Tracy Abrams, Junior, Guard, 11.0 ppg, 3.2 apg
Rayvonte Rice, Junior, Guard, 15.5 ppg, 1.5 apg, 6.0 rpg
Malcolm Hill, Freshman, Guard, 4.3 ppg
Kendrick Nunn, Freshman, Guard, 6.4 ppg, 1.2 apg
Nnanna Egwu, Junior, Center, 7.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.2 bpg

Key Roleplayers:
Joseph Bertrand, Senior, Guard, 8.6 ppg
Jon Ekey, Senior, Forward, 7.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg
Jaylon Tate, Freshman, Guard, 1.9 ppg, 1.9 apg

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 64.7 (306th in nation, 11th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 62.8 (31, 2)
Field-Goal Percentage: 40.8 (317, 11)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.0 (95, 8)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.1 (184, 7)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 31.8 (272, 11)
Free-Throw Percentage: 72.5 (78, 7)
Rebound Margin: 0.3 (182, 8)
Assists Per Game: 10.1 (325, 11)
Turnovers Per Game: 10.5 (34, 3)

Recent Postseason Appearances:
2013    NCAA    Second Round win over Colorado
2013    NCAA    Third Round loss to Miami
2011    NCAA    Round of 64 win over UNLV
2011    NCAA    Round of 32 loss to Kansas
2010    NIT    First Round win over Stony Brook
2010    NIT    Second Round win over Kent State
2010    NIT    Quarterfinal loss to Dayton
2009    NCAA    Round of 64 loss to Western Kentucky
2007    NCAA    Round of 64 loss to Virginia Tech
2006    NCAA    Round of 64 win over Air Force
2006    NCAA    Round of 32 loss to Washington

*all team stats through 3/9


See All Men’s Basketball Postseason Capsules