Friday, October 28, 2005


O&B Scrimmage: What to Watch

Tonight is the annual O& B scrimmage at Assembly Hall, where Illini players get their last opportunity to play a public game-style contest before taking on actual opponents. Much has been written about the impressive practice performances so far by Shaun Pruitt and Jamar Smith, it will be interesting to see if that continues in the scrimmage tonight. Things Illini fans should watch for:

1) Has Dee Brown diversified his game? For three years, Brown has primarily played shooting guard and scored via three pointers and fast break layups. To impress the pro scouts this season, Brown will need to showcase his point guard abilities while also displaying different ways of scoring the ball. Brown will have to carry this team offensively, and I'm on record expecting 18 points and 5-7 assists per game from the senior leader.

2) Is James Augustine healthy? Augie has had foot and ankle issues this offseason, and early word from C-U is that he is not yet 100%. For the Illini to be successful come conference season, Augustine will need to establish himself as a presence in the post.

3) Is Shaun Pruitt capable of being a starter? Pruitt has the best basketball body of any big man on the Illini roster. At 6'10" and chiseled, he's a prototype Big Ten power player. Can he convert that base into a starting position and 20+ minutes per night?

4) Can we expect a different Rich McBride this season? McBride, who was relegated to being a three-point bomber in his first two seasons, will need to play up to his potential as the #28 player (RSCI) in the nation coming out of high school. McBride has not shown the ability to drive and finish offensively, a dimension of his game that will need to be there if he expects to win a starting position. McBride missed Thursday's practice, so another factor to watch is whether he'll even play tonight.

5) Can Brian Randle shoot? Randle is the Illini's best defender and most active player. But he has yet to prove he can consistently make a jump shot. Two years ago, before last season's redshirt, opponents that scouted Illinois would instantly switch their defense to a zone when Randle entered the game. Will that continue this season?

6) Can Chester Frazier spell Dee Brown for 5-10 minutes/night? Based on his play at Midnight Madness, it appears that Frazier at least can come in and provide solid defense off the bench. Will he be able to lead a team and score? How much of a drop-off can Illinois fans expect when Frazier subs in for Brown?

7) Will Warren Carter reach his potential? For two years, Illini fans have drooled at the athleticism and shooting ability seen in spurts by the 6'10" athletic Texan. But opposing coaches have likely noted that, when in the game, it was uncertain if Carter actually defended anybody. If Carter's defense catches up to his offense, he could be a dynamic contributor either in a starting role or off the bench.

8) Is Marcus Arnold a mid-major or high-major player? Arnold got rave reviews for his play in practice last season, and many had penciled him in as a starter in 2005-2006. However, from the sounds of practice reports, Pruitt and Carter may be ahead of Arnold in the rotation. The Illinois State transfer will have his first extended opportunity to play in front of the C-U home crowd tonight, who will be looking to see if his game against the Illini two years ago was a mirage or something the Illini faitfhul can expect more of.

9) Can Jamar Smith contribute this season? Smith, who is slight of build, has a smooth outside shooting stroke. He may be the best pure shooter on the team. While many thought he would redshirt this season to gain strength and work on his guard skills, Smith's shooting ability and the uncertainty of the Illini's scoring options this season make the redshirt option unlikely. Smith will need to prove himself defensively before he can expect big minutes. But don't be suprised to see the Peoria Richwoods freshman log 10-20 minutes per game, especially if teams try to zone the Illini.

10) Can Calvin Brock shoot? See Brian Randle section, subtract three inches, and you've got Calvin Brock. Great athlete, solid defender, but can he shoot well enough to see the floor? If you could combine the attributes of Calvin Brock and Jamar Smith, you'd have one of the best shooting guards in the country.

11) Will Charles Jackson contribute this season? My guess is no. After watching him at Midnight Madness, Jackson appeared to be far from the rest of the pack in terms of readiness to play. A great kid with an outstanding attitude, expect Jackson to jump at the opportunity to redshirt, much as Calvin Brock did last season.

12) Will Trent Meacham bring something to the table in the next few years? Meacham, who is sitting out this season as a transfer from Dayton, will be in the point guard mix with Frazier and hopefully some top flight recruits starting in 2006-2007. Meacham did not show much athleticism or ability to take anybody off the dribble during Midnight Madness, but his outside shooting is ahead of Frazier's. It's unclear if Meacham can play at the Illinois level, but tonight will be an opportunity for Meacham to show what he's made of.

13) What will Bruce Weber have in his bag of tricks? This year's team will play differently than last year's, which had most of its firepower in the three-guard rotation. He will need to find different ways for this team to score, and will work to utilize a 4-big man rotation in the post. Will this team play any zone? How will the Illini react when other teams play zone? Can the Illini survive when Dee Brown goes to the bench for a rest? Will Weber slow the game down to take advantage of his post scorers? Can the Illini find different scoring options outside of Brown and Augustine. Plenty of questions, hopefully there will be at least somewhat of an answer to them tonight.

Notes: Robbie Hummel is visiting NC State, Charlotte and Duke this weekend. Still no offer from the Illini, who appear to have put JUCO forward Shang Ping as their priority at that position in the class of 2007...Mark Tupper seems to be backtracking from his accusations toward Anthony Longstreet and Kansas in his most recent blog I guess he didn't have much in the way of actual evidence when he posted his original comments...The Illini are ranked #17 in the first ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll that came out. Probably a fair place to put the Illini. Other teams of note include Duke at #1, Michigan State (#5), Iowa (#20) and Indiana (#22). For the Bill Self fans, Kansas is unranked...Rumors are circulating that Illinois may be early leaders for both Eric Gordon and Derrick Rose. While I agree with that assessment on Gordon, I would strongly disagree on Rose. Rose will go to North Carolina if the Tar Heels offer. If Roy Williams does not offer, expect Rose to look hard at Kansas, Arizona, DePaul and Virginia as well as Illinois. And Marquette is trying to make a push as well. Location from home will play a factor in Rose's recruitment if UNC does not offer...St. Joseph junior Evan Turner is expected to take an unofficial visit to Illinois this weekend...Rumors are circulating that DePaul and Illinois are close to working out an annual game at the United Center, potentially to start as early as the 2006-2007 season.

Ryan - solid post. You're right on all that stuff - it will be very interesting to see how it plays out.

My question on Randle is, should we really be that concerned about his jumper? I know it would be better if he had a good one - but can't he be just as valuable for us by getting points in other ways?

IMO - if he gets 10 pts/game on tip ins and running the break - I'd be fine with that.

Are you going to the scrimmage?



Won't be at the game tonight, unfortunately. A buddy's getting married here tomorrow in Chitown and rehearsal/rehearsal dinner will be tonight.

I'm sure we'll get a decent sense of what happens from posters on the IB and Rivals...

I think Randle is what he is....a good all-around floor player...that struggles shooting the ball. Poor man's Iguadala. I think he can get 10-12 PPG just running the court and getting offensive rebounds. Any jump shot he makes is a bonus. The better McBride plays (or Smith), than the more we can afford Randle's poor shooting. If our SG's can't score, than we will have a problem.
Ryan, my Carolina buddy doesn't think they'll have a scholarship available for Rose (or anyone else). Thoughts? Do you have inside info as to Rose's strong desire to play there? I'm hoping this is one of those where we're finally pleasantly surpised that Illini get him...
Ryan and I disagree here. I do think Illinois has an excellent chance to get Rose. North Carolina is bringing in Lawson to run the point...and whether Rose wants to admit it, or not, he wants to be a PG...not a SG. That's why Rose to Kansas makes no sense...they have 2 bigtime PG's on the roster by the time Rose goes to school. I think Rose will stay close to home....and this will be a DePaul vs. Illinois battle....and Illinois will win.

Why should the Illini even suit up this year Ryan? That has to be the most negative assesment I have ever read. Do you think we actually have a chance in hell of beating Southeast Mizzou State?
I agree with Butts in that Illinois has a chance with Rose. But I just get the sense that Rose is looking for reasons to go anywhere but Illinois. I know, through various sources, that UNC is a lock if they offer. But like anonymous and Butts have said, it's looking unlikely that UNC will offer him. It then becomes a battle of teams like Illinois, DePaul, Virginia and Kansas. In that set of circumstances, I think the Illini have a shot. But I don't think that Rose himself wants to play in the Big Ten and I would not at all be surprised if he chose the Blue Demons.
Where was IHN negative in this writeup?? If you don't think the Illini have major questions this year, your sipping the Kool-Aid a little too hard. How many of these players have proven in games that they are ready to be major players? Do I think they can be good? Absolutely! But, to knock IHN because he doesn't drool over the players is silly. And, for the record, both IHN and I have Illinois down for 22+ (Nut has 25+) wins, top 3 in the conference, and a Sweet 16 berth. Obviously, we both think they will be pretty good. Nice agenda though!
I've heard similar rumblings on the DePaul game thing, and I just hate it.

I hate DePaul and anything that gives them even the tiniest chance of competing against us legitimately for recruits irritates me.

The timing is also bad. For the first time in five years, we would enter a game like this on essentially even footing talent wise.

If DePaul envisions itself as a major player for Chicago area recruits in 2007 and beyond, then a win in the inaugural game would give them a possible leg up in some of these recruiting battles.

I just don't see how this game benefits us whatsoever.
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