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So Far Ray Rice Has Been Exactly Who We've Needed Him To Be

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It's hard not to be impressed with early impressions of Ray Rice.

Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

We knew coming into this season that Rayvonte Rice might end up being one of the most important members of the roster this season, and at this point it would be hard to be disappointed with what we've seen. Now, as is always the case this early in the season, a lot of what we've seen should be taken with a fair amount of skepticism, but Rice has been impressive.

Through four games he leads the team with 16.5 points per game, while also averaging 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. He's also been the best free throw shooter on the team, which helps overcome his inability to hit the three earlier.

And when you look at some more of the advanced statistics, Rice's first four games are even more impressive.

If you look at Ken Pomeroy's offensive rating for individual players (it's a metric that while complicated, essentially boils down to how efficient a player is) you'll find that nobody in the Big Ten has a higher rating than Rayvonte Rice amongst players with a usage rate of  at least 24%.

Rice's offensive rating is at 139.5. The only other Illini in the top 20 is -- surprisingly -- Tracy Abrams.

Nationally there are only seven players with a usage rate of at least 24% that have a higher offensive rating than Rice right now.

Now, whether or not Rice will be able to maintain this pace for the entire season remains to be seen. The Illini have much tougher competition coming up on the schedule, and then things will become even more difficult once Big Ten play begins. Still, while a regression is likely -- and hopefully so is a progression of his three-point shooting -- Rice's first four games as an Illini are certainly promising and give us all a reason to think he just might be our most reliable source of points this season.

And highlight dunks as well.

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