Basketball season is here! Basketball season is here! It probably won't be as great a basketball season as we'd like, but it's going to be better than football season!
I don't know.
Yeah, it will be.
So before the Illini take on Colgate at Assembly Hall tonight to kick off the season, here are five predictions I'm making about the 2012-13 season. All of which are going to come true because MAGIC.
1. D.J. Richardson will be our best player. I think the common feeling is that with John Groce taking over the program and running an offense that benefits guards, Brandon Paul will be the most important player on the roster. And he might just be. However, I think Richardson will be the best player on the team.
Yes, Brandon Paul has the kind of talent where he can put the entire team on his back during a game when he gets hot -- we all remember Ohio State last season -- but he can also kill us on off nights. For the most part Paul is an inefficient scorer who takes a lot of shots to get his points and turns the ball over too often.
Then there's Richardson, who is much more even-keeled, and as a senior I can see taking control of this team. I see his field goal percentage improving this year as well as his assist numbers, as this team is in need of a second ball-handler. I wouldn't be shocked at all if Richardson ends up scoring 14 points per game this season.
2. Tracy Abrams will struggle early, but figure things out. It's only natural to expect Tracy to have some problems. It's his first year in a new system, it's only his second season on campus, and he's pretty much the only point guard on the roster we know we can count on. That's a heavy burden for him, and I expect there to be a transition period.
However I also see Abrams getting more comfortable as the season goes on and being a much better player once the Big Ten schedule starts. By the time the season is over we're all going to be a lot more optimistic about the point guard situation going into 2013-14.
3. Turnovers will be a problem all season long. We're just going to have to get used to it. The Illini turned the ball over at an alarming rate during two exhibition games, and without true ball-handlers on the team, it will continue through the season. Teams will press the Illini often, and it will work a lot of the time.
Groce has already said he's fine with turnovers, and expects about 12 a game. It's just that those turnovers need to be a result of aggression and not stupidity. So they won't be going away.
4. Post play will be a problem. I really wish Meyers Leonard would have stayed one more year. I completely understand why he left, and the fact that he was a lottery pick only proved how right a decision it was, but from a selfish standpoint.....man I wish he'd stayed.
The Illini will miss his scoring presence in the post, and guys like Sam McLaurin, Nnanna Egwu and Tyler Griffey aren't going to be able to make up for it. Which means this offense will be even more dependent on guard play.
5. The Illini will beat Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State or Indiana this year. Not in the overall standings, but there will be at least one upset just like there was against Ohio State last season. My guess is it will be either Michigan on January 27 or Indiana on February 7.
6. The Illini will make the tournament. It's not going to be a wonderful season, and the Illini are never going to be considered a threat for the Big Ten title. However, I do see this team finishing 9-9 in conference play and winning enough non-conference games to get a spot in the dance. It might be a play-in game, but it'll be a spot.