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.
— 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.
— 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.
— 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.
— 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.
— 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.
— 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.
— 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.
— 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.
— 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.
— 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.
— 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.