HQ prediction: UI 78, Valpo 69
Sneak peek: Valparaiso at Illinois,
6:30 p.m. today
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Tracy Abrams Jr. 6-2 11.0
G Rayvonte Rice Jr. 6-4 17.5
G Joseph Bertrand Sr. 6-6 17.0
F Jon Ekey Sr. 6-7 4.5
C Nnanna Egwu Jr. 6-11 10.0
FYI: Egwu tied a career high against Jacksonville State on Sunday, blocking five shots. The last time he did it was Jan. 2 at Purdue.
OFF THE BENCH
G Jaylon Tate Fr. 6-3 6.0
G Kendrick Nunn Fr. 6-3 2.0
G/F Malcolm Hill Fr. 6-6 5.5
P Name Yr. Ht. PPG
G Jordan Coleman Sr. 6-5 15.0
G LaVonte Dority Sr. 6-1 15.0
F Bobby Capobianco Sr. 6-10 10.5
F Alec Peters Fr. 6-8 10.5
C Moussa Gueye Sr. 7-0 6.5
FYI: Capobianco is a fifth-year senior who played two years at Indiana before joining the Crusaders. In four games against the Illini, Capobianco averaged 2.0 points and 2.3 rebounds.
OFF THE BENCH
G/F Clay Yeo Fr. 6-4 10.0
G Lexus Williams Fr. 5-11 7.0
G/F Vashil Fernandez Jr. 6-10 8.0
Site: State Farm Center (16,618), Champaign
TV: BTN — Kevin Kugler (play-by-play) and Seth Davis (analyst) have the call.
Radio: Brian Barnhart (play-by-play) and former Illini Jerry Hester (expert analysis) have the call on the Illini Sports Network on WDWS 1400-AM, WDAN 1490-AM, WHMS 97.5-FM, WDNL 102.1-FM and WPXN 104.9-FM.
Series: Illinois leads 5-0. Last meeting: Illinois 93, Valparaiso 56, Dec. 19, 2004 (Champaign).
FYI: This is the first live televised game for the Illini this season. Three more games this season (Bradley, IPFW, Dartmouth) will be available online only either on ESPN3 or BTDN.
Marcus Jackson’s storylines
Interested in seeing how the Illini fare against a team with some size on the front line? The first televised game of the season provides you that chance. The Crusaders go 6-10, 7-0 and 6-8 in the frontcourt, and they can bring another 6-10 player off the bench. The Illini were outrebounded by a smaller Jacksonville State team on Sunday, so tonight will be a welcomed challenge. “It’ll be the biggest team we’ve played against thus far,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “All those things are good as we continue to have different challenges game in, game out as we continue to build our team. It’s important that we get different types of teams, different looks. Their size is going to be similar to what we’re going to see down the road.”
When looking at the rebounding disparity on Sunday (Jacksonville State hauled in seven more boards than Illinois, including 25 on the offensive glass) it’s natural to look at the big men and fault them. But with the makeup of this Illinois team, it’s got to be a team effort on the glass. Aside from Joseph Bertrand’s 10 rebounds, Illinois’ five other perimeter players combined for four rebounds Sunday. “I didn’t think our guards were very involved in our rebounding at all, and I think that hurt us,” Groce said. “Abrams, Tate, LaTulip, those guards have to help us on the defensive end. ... Those guys saw the film, and I know they’ll make a better effort when it comes to that area.”
Today, Illinois is expected to sign three recruits — Michael Finke, Leron Black, Quentin Snider — to national letters of intent to join the program next year. It’s already considered one of the top-15 classes in the country, but the hope is by Friday it could vault even higher if Chicago big man Cliff Alexander announces for the Illini at his news conference. The five-star power forward is considering DePaul, Kansas and Memphis, too, and though it was believed he would cut one of the four schools this week, he’ll head into Friday’s announcement with four fan bases anxiously awaiting his word. This week began a recruiting dead period, meaning Alexander is finished with visits. The college basketball world will watch Friday on ESPNU as he makes his decision live during the same hour another Chicago big man, Jahlil Okafor, will make his pledge. Okafor is considering Kansas, Duke, Kentucky and Baylor.
Illinois 78, Valparaiso 69
We’ve learned a lot about this Illinois team through two games. Jaylon Tate is better than most expected from a freshman point guard with 10 assists and one turnover, and everyone is going to play. We’ll continue to learn more as the competition stiffens, starting with the Crusaders, who put up 113 in a 63-point win against Division III North Park on Sunday. How the Illini handle this game and the rest going forward against tougher competition will tell more than the two wins against the Alabama schools. “We’ve been fortunate and blessed to win with two comfortable margins. Obviously, things are going to continue to get more difficult moving forward, and we need that,” Groce said. “We’re going to start to get more and more and more challenged, and that’s good.” (N-G prediction record: 2-0).