Big Ten Basketball: Team Preview — The Mixer Continues — Part V
Illinois and Iowa
Iowa and Illinois might be long shots to win the conference title, but the chances of both of these teams being included in this year’s NCAA tournament are solid. Iowa has slowly been gaining experience and talent and a team like Illinois rarely has to worry about talent, in past years the worry was how the talent played.Fran McCaffery won 20 games in the regular season last year and Iowa finished 9-9 in the league. Still, the Hawkeyes went to the NIT. Between the NIT and Big Ten Tournament, Iowa added several postseason victories to the record. The Iowa season record has improved in each of McCaffery’s three seasons. McCaffery is an intense, fiery type that demands hard play from his players.
There are many juniors and a few seniors on the roster. The juniors are McCaffery’s recruits. Iowa finished the preconference with an 11-2 record against mixed competition.
Roy Marble is now a senior. He is averaging 16 points a game, but his shooting percentage is down somewhat. Marble is a nice 6’ 6” swing type of player. He can score inside and outside, brings energy to the floor, and plays at an all-league level. His energy results in a team lead in steals and good rebounding and assist statistics.
Aaron White is a 6’ 9” forward. He is averaging 13 points a game and nearly 7 rebounds. Aaron’s 2-point shooting has been very good as has been his foul shooing (82%).Jarrod Uthoff is a sophomore transfer from Wisconsin. He is 6’ 9” and is the third Hawkeye in double digits. Uthoff is doing very well, shooting over 60% from the floor and 80% from the foul line: nice transfer, although he was Iowa High School Player of the Year, so obviously Iowa basketball is a familiar entity.
Senior Zack McCabe is a big senior forward. He mixes it up enough to contribute good scoring and rebounding considering the number of minutes played. His foul shooting is a plus.
Melsahn Basabe is a 6’ 7” senior that every Big Ten team would welcome. Like McCabe, Basabe brings energy that yields good scoring, good rebounding, tough defense, and shot blocking. While not the most skilled, classic type of offensive player, Basabe just keeps going.
Peter Jok is a 6’ 6” big guard. He is the prize freshman on the current roster. Jok has starting off a little rough regarding shooting, but is still averaging nearly 7 points a game.
Last year’s prized freshman, now sophomore, Mike Gesell, runs the show for Iowa. While not the biggest scoring threat for a point guard, Gesell leads the team in assists and steals. Gesell is a tough, hard playing, in your face type of guy.Gabriel Olaseni is a 6’ 10” center and is a member of the predominant junior class. He provides around 6 rebounds and 6 points a game. Olaseni also leads the team in blocks. The combination of Olaseni and Basabe is a pretty tough inside defensive duo.
Even more size can come off the bench when Iowa plays 7’ 1” sophomore center Adam Woodbury. He is shooting over 50%, averaging about 6 points, and gathering over 4 rebounds a game playing only 16 minutes a game.
Junior Josh Oglesby at 6’ 5” can add extra size at guard and provide a solid substitution.
Iowa plays many players, somewhat like the famous former Iowa coach Dr. Tom Davis. Eleven players average over four points a game, a somewhat phenomenal statistic. The Hawkeyes no longer wear out in the second half like in years past. This is a pretty good shooting team, both from 2-point and 3-point range. The rebounding margin is a plus 10 for Iowa. The foul shooting is in the normal 71% range.
Iowa continues to improve and is now a serious candidate for first division, Big Ten standing. This group of juniors and seniors may not be the equal of some of the elite teams in the league, but this group is a nice mix that plays with intensity.Last year Illinois had a somewhat rough 1st year under new coach, John Groce. Part of the Illini problems centered on veterans, now gone, that suffered late game breakdowns. This year truly starts the John Groce era. Groce is an intense coach and emphasizes tough man-to-man defense, especially on the perimeter. He is most capable and Illinois is in the center of the fertile Midwest recruiting zone.
Expectations are high in the fine Midwest campus at Champaign. Illinois finished the nonconference schedule with an 11-2 record.
Rayvonte Rice is a big guard and is a transfer from Drake. He is leading the Illini in scoring with about 19 a game. Rice’s shooting has been near 50% and he is not afraid to let it fly. Rice has normal turnover margin and gathers enough steals to be considered a defensive threat.Tracy Abrams is a very talented sophomore guard. Last year, Abrams started most games for Illinois. He is excellent at moving the ball, leading the team in assists. Last year, Abrams led Illinois in steals. Like Rice, Abrams is a strong rebounding guard. His point production is around 13 a game.
Joseph Bertrand is a senior 6’ 6” swingman. Last year he was valuable as a sixth man. This year he is playing 30 minutes a game. His shooting (11 points) and rebounding (nearly 5 per game) totals have been big positives for Illinois.
John Ekey is a 6’ 7” graduate school transfer from Illinois State. As a graduate student he can play immediately. This experienced player will be a big help for Coach Groce, placing a band-aid between the present and rebuilding efforts of the future. Ekey is getting a bonus career, starting for a Big Ten team and so far averaging over 8 points and helping on the boards with 6 rebounds per game.Nnanna Egwu is a 6’11” junior center from Chicago St. Ignatius. As one would expect, he has shot blocking skills and averages around 8 points and 5 rebounds a game. Egwu will shoot from behind the 3-pont arc.
Unlike Iowa, Illinois goes with five players that play most of the game. Illinois is not the best shooting team in the conference, but the defensive statistics are impressive. Opponents are shooting less than 40% from the field. Foul shooting is average and the turnover ratio is good.
Illinois will be a better team this year and along with the other mixer teams will fight hard to get to the NCAA Tournament. Next, and finally, a look at three teams most likely to win the league title.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Doc4Blu
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