Groce's Eleven: Project NCAA berth

Stealing an NCAA tournament berth would be quite a feat for these Illini. Beat writer Marcus Jackson breaks down how everyone fits into John Groce’s master plan, which starts Tuesday in Las Vegas.

Tracy Abrams

— The leader of the pack is not afraid to take risks, as his nine turnovers indicate, but the reward (11.6 points per game, 3.2 assists) is worth it.

Rayvonte Rice

— If John Groce’s club is in need of a big play, it can feel comfortable going all in on the Champaign native, who leads the Illini in scoring (15.6) and highlights.

Joseph Bertrand

— The old veteran has seen it all and is comfortable at any table. The fifth-year senior is first or second on the team in scoring, minutes, rebounding and field goal percentage.

Nnanna Egwu

— He’s the protector. Want to steal a win from Illinois, you’re going to have to get by Egwu, who’s near the top of the Big Ten with 3.0 blocked shots per game.

Jaylon Tate

— He’s the guy running around making sure everyone cashes in on their opportunities. His 18 assists lead the team, and his assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.5:1 is second in the Big Ten.

Malcolm Hill

— Bet on the youngster getting to the foul line. The 6-foot-6 freshman is second on the team in free throw attempts and shoots about one foul shot for every three minutes played.

Austin Colbert

— An apprentice of Ekey and Egwu, the 6-foot-9 freshman has the versatility to be a force on the boards and the skill set to be a scorer when needed.

Maverick Morgan

— The young big man is still learning the ropes, but the hope is that he one day becomes the muscle down low, capable of posting significant numbers in the process.

Mike LaTulip

— Need one guy you can rely on to hit it big in a pinch? The sophomore is your guy. LaTulip has attempted four three-pointers this season and connected on three of them.

Jon Ekey

— When you make a bad bet — or shot — he’s the guy to clean it up. The Illinois State transfer is pulling in 3.6 offensive rebounds per game, third in the conference.

Kendrick Nunn

— The wild card is a highly regarded prospect capable of injecting energy into his teammates, as evidenced by his eight-point, four-rebound, three-assist showing vs. Bradley.
 

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ChiefIlliniFan wrote on November 24, 2013 at 6:11 pm

If these kids gel and nothing is impossible for Groce to accomplish. So I like our odds to make it. Good luck guys, you certainly are capable of making it!