Chicago Colleges: college basketball

College basketball: State of the state

February, 11, 2014
Rayvonte RiceJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesRayvonte Rice is leading the Illini in scoring this season.
Illinois college basketball has seen some dark years in the last decade.

The state didn’t place a single team in the NCAA tournament in three of the last six seasons. Only the Illinois Fighting Illini kept the state from complete embarrassment with tournament appearances as a No. 5 seed in 2009, a No. 9 seed in 2011 and a No. 7 seed last season.

The last time a state team other than the Illini made the tournament was in 2007 when Southern Illinois was still riding high. That was also the last year the state had two tournament teams. The state landed three tournament teams in 2006 with Bradley joining Illinois and Southern Illinois.

But as bad as the state has been in recent years, it’s even worse this season. The state is not only likely headed to another season without an NCAA tournament berth, but most of its teams are struggling to stay above .500 in conference. Of the 13 teams in Illinois, only Chicago State and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville have winning records in conference.

Here’s a look at the present and future for all 13 teams in the state:

Illinois (14-10, 3-8 Big Ten), last NCAA tournament appearance: 2013

Illinois was expected to return to reality after a 12-2 start, which was inflated by a win over a suspect Missouri team, but no one could have predicted the Illini’s dramatic fall. They have won twice in 2014, and both those victories came against the conference’s worst team, Penn State. Between their two wins over the Nittany Lions, the Illini suffered eight consecutive losses. Illinois is likely headed to its third consecutive season under .500 in the Big Ten and its second under coach John Groce. Lack of scoring has been Illinois’ biggest problem as of late as the Illini averaged 55.1 points during an eight-game losing streak. With even the NIT unlikely at this point, it’s best to look to next season when transfers Ahmad Starks, Aaron Cosby and Darius Paul will be eligible and the arrival of Leron Black, Groce’s first top-50 recruit. The Illini will also return leading scorer Rayvonte Rice, Tracy Abrams, Nnanna Egwu and improving freshmen Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn. Expectations should be high next season.

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Five potential impact transfers in Illinois

November, 2, 2013
Here’s a look at five college basketball transfers who could be impact players for Illinois programs this season:

Kelsey Barlow, UIC, guard, redshirt senior
Barlow, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard, has the potential to be one of the top players in the Horizon League this season. He sat out last season after transferring from Purdue. He started 22 games for the Boilermakers during the 2011-12 season and averaged 8.3 pints, 3.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists.

Milton Doyle, Loyola, guard, redshirt freshman
Doyle, a 6-foot-4 combo guard, departed Kansas after a short period and transferred to Loyola. He sat out last season. He is dealing with an injury now, but he is expected to contribute for the Ramblers when healthy this season. He averaged 19 points, five assists and five steals as a high school senior at Marshall in Chicago.

Sandi Marcius, DePaul, forward, redshirt senior
Marcius, a 6-foot-10, 255-pound power forward, utilized the NCAA’s graduate student waiver rule and transferred to DePaul from Purdue for his final season. Marcius should provide the Blue Demons some needed interior play. He led Purdue in blocks six times and rebounds once last season. He had 10 rebounds, including six offensive, and two blocks in the Blue Demons’ win over Lewis on Tuesday.

Rayvonte Rice, Illinois, guard, redshirt junior
Rice, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, should be able to help the Illini replace the scoring void left by D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul. Rice sat out last season after transferring from Drake. He was a second-team All-Missouri Valley pick for the 2011-2012 season and led Drake with 16.8 points per game.

Jordan Threloff, Northern Illinois, center, redshirt junior
Threloff, 6-foot-9, 255-pound center, received a waiver and is eligible this season after transferring from Illinois State. He wasn’t used a whole lot with the Redbirds, but he should have a bigger role at Northern Illinois. He was one of the state’s better big men coming out of high school and is believed to have a lot of upside left. He redshirted his first year at Illinois State.