Brandon Paul

Illinois beats Butler to win the Maui title


Maybe it really was Bruce Weber’s fault.

24 hours after Butler laid the wood on the No. 9 team in the country, Illinois mollywhopped the Bulldogs, 78-61, to take home the Maui Invititational title.

Brandon Paul led the way for the Illini with 20 points while Tracy Abrams went for 17 and Tyler Griffy and DJ Richardson chipped in with 14 apiece. As a team, Illinois shot 10-25 from three, which actually lowers their three-point percentage on the season to 41.1%.

So are the Illini legit?

Well, six games into the season, they are 6-0 with impressive wins over USC and Butler. And while that doesn’t necessarily mean much — USC got taken to overtime by Texas and Butler was whooped up on by Xavier — what’s inarguable is that this Illinois team is playing much better under John Groce than they did for Weber. They’re sharing the ball, they’re scoring a lot of point, they’re shooting the ball well and they actually look like they’re having fun playing basketball.

That’s a major step up from last season.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Boise State loses guard Harwell to torn ACL

Leon Rice
Associated Press
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Expected to be one of the favorites in the Mountain West this season, Boise State’s perimeter ranks have shrunk by one player due to injury. Thursday it was reported by the Idaho Statesman that freshman guard Malek Harwell will redshirt after suffering a torn ACL in practice. Along with fellow freshman Paris Austin, Harwell is expected to be a key part of the Broncos’ future beyond the upcoming season.

Now, instead of competing with an experienced backcourt that includes four redshirt seniors, Harwell will work to get his knee back to full strength for the 2016-17 season.

Among the guards who will play significant minutes this season are Anthony Drmic, who took a medical redshirt last season, Montigo Alford, Mikey Thompson and grad transfer Lonnie Jackson (Boston College). Chandler Hutchison, who started in Boise State’s final 18 games of the 2014-15 season as a freshman, will also compete for playing time.

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
Associated Press
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Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.