With a new head coach and picked to finish ninth in the Big Ten preseason coaches poll, Illinois likely would have signed up for a season that ended just five points short of a Sweet 16 appearance back in October.
But that does nothing soothe the pain of the Fighting Illini (23-13) in the aftermath of their 63-59 loss to 2-seed Miami, a game that was there for the taking thanks to Illinois’ perimeter defense and work on the offensive glass.
A team that lacked interior muscle all season long managed to grab 16 offensive rebounds, outscoring the Hurricanes 21-8 in second-chance points and finishing the game with a 38-35 rebounding advantage. However Miami guard Rion Brown scored 21 points off the bench, and key free throws down the stretch sealed the deal for the Hurricanes (29-6).
Brandon Paul scored 18 points (8-of-20 FG) to lead Illinois, but fellow senior D.J. Richardson had one of the roughest nights in his four-year career. Richardson, averaging 12.5 points per game entering Sunday, scored five points on 1-of-11 shooting. Even with Larkin (17 points, 5-of-12 FG) and Scott (six points, 2-of-8 FG) struggling for Miami, Illinois needed both of their senior guards to perform well if they were to win.
That didn’t happen, leaving the door open not only for an “unsung” hero such as Brown but also a dubious out-of-bounds call in the game’s final minute.
But even with the loss and the pending loss of four seniors from the rotation (Paul, Richardson, Tyler Griffey and Sam McLaurin) there are positives to be taken from Illinois’ performance with an eye towards the future. One positive was the play of Nnanna Egwu, who tallied the first double-double of his career with 12 points and 12 rebounds and will figure prominently in Illinois’ plans going forward.
The first season of the John Groce era is one Illinois can build upon, but the immediate thoughts will be about what could have been.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.
Zion Williamson made another highlight-reel play on Saturday outside of Atlanta as he threw down a vicious putback dunk at the Best of the South.
The five-star prospect has returned from a minor knee injury this spring to look like his old self in July as he’s entertained packed gyms of fans and college coaches the last two weeks.
The Class of 2018 star is currently regarded as the No. 3 overall prospect in the latest Rivals.com national rankings.
(h/t: Courtside Films)
Five-star Class of 2018 point guard Darius Garland revealed the final six schools that he’s considering on Friday.
The N0. 12 overall prospect in the Class of 2018, according to Rivals, the 6-foot-0 Garland is one of the top floor generals in the nation as he is still considering Duke, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA and Vanderbilt.
A native of Nashville, Garland is a potentially elite perimeter threat at the college level as he’s one of the more deadly three-point marksmen in the nation.
Garland spent this spring and summer playing with Bradley Beal Elite in the Nike EYBL as he averaged 16.8 points and 4.8 assists per game in the league this spring.
The #DriveByDunkChallenge is sweeping the nation on social media this summer.
Rules to participate are pretty simple:
- Drive around in your vehicle.
- Find a basketball hoop (or a basketball ring if you’re Ted Cruz) on a random driveway.
- Run out of your car and dunk on that random hoop while a friend films.
- Run back to your car and drive away.
Let Anthony Davis show you how it works:
Pretty simple, right?
The #DriveByDunkChallenge isn’t raising money or awareness for ALS like the #IceBucketChallenge did three years ago, but it’s something harmless and fun to do to pass the time during the dog days of summer.
Sensing an opportunity to join an Internet craze, while also following in the footsteps of his former player Kentucky star, Wildcats head coach John Calipari got involved with his own dunk late Friday night.
And his video is much funnier than I thought it would be.
While most #DriveByDunkChallenge videos are done by healthy and spry teenagers who are cruising neighborhoods during the day, Calipari, and his hip replacement, got in on the fun with a late-night dunk.
I love that Calipari ditched the ball behind his back while running back to the car after the dunk.
Most people who participate in the challenge usually have their own ball and keep it with them through completion. But Calipari either picked up a random ball in the driveway or just he lost the handle with his own ball and had a turnover.
The next time Calipari goes hard on one of his point guards for losing control and playing too fast, remember this moment.
Creighton rising junior wing Khyri Thomas, like several of his teammates, are taking part in the Omaha Summer League this offseason.
On Thursday night, the 6-foot-3, 205-lb. Thomas eviscerated a defender with a one-handed posterization.
Thomas is coming off a breakout sophomore campaign for the Bluejays. He started all 35 games, averaging 12.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Aside from the increase in offensive production, Thomas served as one of the top defenders in the Big East. He shared the Big East Defensive Player of the Year Award with Villanova’s Josh Hart and Mikal Bridges.
Zion Williamson added another jaw-dropping dunk in the layup lines on the first night of the second live evaluation period.
Williamson and his SC Supreme team took on Each 1 Teach 1 at the Hoopseen Best of the South at the LakePoint Sporting Community in greater Atlanta.
The 6-foot-7 power forward threw down a 360 windmill dunk during his pregame routines.
Each 1 Teach 1 would pick up a 70-67 victory over SC Supreme. Williamson would end with a monster stat line of 37 points and seven rebounds.