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Fighting Illini Basketball Scouting Report: North Carolina Central Eagles

Can the Illini make it six in a row to start the year?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Four-NC Central vs UC Davis Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

About North Carolina Central

North Carolina Central University is the public state university of Durham, NC. This is the Eagles eighth season as a Division I program. In those eight years, they have made two NCAA Tournaments appearances and one NIT appearance. The Eagles are coached by LeVelle Moton who is 152-103 in his 8 seasons at NCCU. Moton has accrued 22+ wins in four of his last five seasons as the Eagles head coach.

What They Did Last Year

The Eagles went 25-9 last season and finished first in the MEAC with a 13-3 conference record. NCCU also won the MEAC Tournament which earned them a bid in the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles lost to UC Davis 67-63 in the First Four in Dayton, moving their program’s NCAA Tournament Record to 0-2. LeVelle Moton was awrded the MEAC Coach of the Year.

The Eagles best win was a 10 point win over Illinois’ rival Mizzou. They also played the other high-major schools on their schedule very tough. The Eagles gave Ohio State and LSU a scare with single digit losses to both schools early in the season.

Key Losses and Additions

The Eagles lost alot from last year’s NCAA Tournament team. The reigning MEAC Champions lose 6 seniors to graduation, including their top three scorers. In total, they are losing 60 points per game from those six seniors. They will miss Patrick Cole’s 19 PPG, 7 RPG and 6 APG the most. The six-foot-five guard led the Eagles in all three of those categories. Patrick Cole was voted the 2017 MEAC Player of the Year. The Eagles also lose All-MEAC Second Team point guard Dajuan Graf to graduation. Graf averaged 14 points and 5 assists per game for the Eagles in his senior season.

The Eagles have brought in a lot of new faces to replace last year’s MEAC champions. A pair of freshmen guards have played well for the Eagles early on. Reginald Gardner and Jordan Perkins have combined to average 15 points per game and look to replace the backcourt punch left behind by Cole and Graf. The Eagles have also added Raasean Davis to this year’s squad. Davis is currently the team’s leading scorer and is a transfer from Kent State University.

Star Watch

Raasean Davis is the player to keep an eye on in Friday’s matchup. As previously mentioned, Davis is new the Eagles after playing two years at Kent State, transferring to NCCU, and sitting out last year due to NCAA rules. Davis is listed at six-foot-nine and 240 pounds. The trasfer big man is nearly averaging a double-double with 16 points per game and 9.4 rebounds per game. He is also the only Eagle averaging over 10 points per game this season. Davis has scored at least 12 points in every game for the Eagles this season and is shooting an impressive 64% from the field. Davis has recorded a double-double in NC Central’s last two games, both of which were victories.

Davis will prove to be a good test for the Illinois post defense. Davis is a load down on the block and it will be important for Finke and Black to be able to defend him without getting into foul trouble. If Illinois can contain Davis, and stay out of foul trouble, they should be able to handle the rest of NC Central’s attack.

Prediction

NC Central has established themselves as a perrenial contender in the MEAC, but they have lost a lot of key contributors from last year’s team. If Illinois executes and continues to improve on their first five wins, they should be able to take care of the Eagles. This is NC Central’s first game against a high-major opponent this season, I expect Illinois’ pace and defensive intensity to throw the Eagles out of sorts for segments of this game, allowing the Illini to ride to victory.

Illinois 84, NC Central 63.