Big East Basketball Tournament - First Round

Illinois’ Aaron Cosby looking to step forward after sitting out last season as a transfer

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The 2013-14 season didn’t provide the results the Illinois Fighting Illini hoped for, with John Groce’s team landing in the Postseason NIT and finishing the year with a 20-15 record. Illinois will return all five starters from that team, led by guards Rayvonte Rice (15.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Tracy Abrams (10.7, 3.5, 3.2 apg), and one of the positives from last season was the amount of playing time their newcomers received.

Malcolm Hill (4.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg), Kendrick Nunn (6.2, 1.7) and Jaylon Tate (1.8, 1.9 apg) all played at least 12.2 minutes per game as freshmen, with Hill and Nunn moving into the starting lineup during Big Ten play. That experience will help Illinois as they look to return to the NCAA tournament, but there is a question to be answered: who will step up as the team’s third scoring option?

One player looking to work his way into the mix is redshirt junior guard Aaron Cosby, who sat out last season after transferring in from Seton Hall. In two seasons as a Pirate, Cosby averaged 9.8 points per game and he along with Ahmad Starks (formerly at Oregon State) give Illinois some additional experience on the perimeter.

In preparation for the upcoming season Cosby played on an all-star team put together by Sports Reach that visited China, and according to the Chicago Tribune it was a productive experience for Cosby. Cosby scored an average of 18.1 points per game during the trip (nine games), and the experience allowed him to experience the game competition that was missing during his year in residency.

“It was good to get back out there on the court and kind of shake the rust off,” Cosby told Shannon Ryan of the Tribune. “It felt really good to get that competitive drive back. I’d been doing drills or 4-5 minute scrimmages in practice (last year).”

Illinois returns a lot from last season but they’ll be without their third and fourth-leading scorers in Joseph Bertrand (8.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg) and Jon Ekey (7.3, 4.8). Rice is a proven scorer and Abrams also averaged double figures last season, but others will need to step forward if the Fighting Illini are to improve on their 2013-14 performance. Cosby is one player capable of doing so, and the hope is that he can build on his spring trip to China.

North Carolina to wear black jerseys December 19 vs. UCLA

UNC Athletic Communications
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While there have been some alterations made to North Carolina’s basketball uniforms over the years, there haven’t been too many drastic shifts. Of course there was the move to the Alexander Julian-designed argyle print during the 1990’s, and there were also those jerseys in 1999 that had the interlocking “NC” logo as opposed to “North Carolina” on the front.

Friday the program announced a major uniform change for its game against UCLA December 19 in Brooklyn. North Carolina will be wearing black jerseys for the first time in school history. Senior guard Marcus Paige showed off the new look to his teammates, and it’s safe to say that they’re happy with the new uniforms.

Traditionalists probably won’t like the uniforms, and that’s fine. Changes such as these tend to focus more on the younger crowd (especially recruits), which in some instances like the status that can come with having something that’s both new and exclusive.

Villanova forward to undergo hip surgery

Jay Wright
Associated Press
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Two-time defending Big East champion Villanova will be down a man in its front court, as the program announced Friday that freshman forward Tim Delaney will undergo hip surgery. According to the release a torn labrum in Delaney’s left hip is the reason for the surgery, and it has yet to be determined how long the freshman will be sidelined.

“I’m disappointed for Tim,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said in the release. “Tim had a great summer and preseason. He’s a very coachable young man and was picking up everything we do. The good news is that the doctors tell us this is an injury that can be fixed and we know Tim will be fully committed to his rehab.”

Villanova’s front court rotation will be led by senior Daniel Ochefu, who averaged 9.2 points and a team-high 8.5 rebounds per game in 2014-15. Junior Darryl Reynolds and sophomore Kris Jenkins will also see minutes in the front court, with redshirt freshman guard/forward Mikal Bridges factoring into the competition as well.

Villanova also has Fordham transfer Eric Paschall, but he isn’t eligible to compete in games this season.