Who Are They?
Florida Atlantic University (AKA “FAU”) is a large university located in Boca Raton, Fla. You are probably familiar with FAU because it hired the mighty Lane Kiffin as its head football coach just a couple of years ago. FAU (8-4) is home to over 30,000 students and the basketball team competes in Conference-USA with schools such as Rice, Western Kentucky, UAB and Louisiana Tech. Just like seemingly every other non-conference team the Illini compete against, they have an uncommon team name: the Owls.
What Did They Do Last Year?
FAU was basically the Illinois of the C-USA last year. It finished with a 12-19 record (6-12 in conference play), which was good for 11th place, just about with Rice, UTEP and Charlotte. Yikes.
Much like many of the other mid-major programs that Illinois faces each year, FAU did not have a great number of quality wins — or games — to speak of last season. They began last season with a record of 6-3, but ended on a 6-16 slide during the tail end of non-conference and conference play to finish the year. The Owls beat our neighbors to the north, Northern Illinois, 77-67, in the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Florida. By the looks of their schedule, that might their best win. They dropped a game to Minnesota in Minneapolis, 95-60, on Dec. 23, and Marshall, 79-68, on Feb 10. Other than those games, there did not appear to be any overlap with the Illini schedule.
It’s safe to say that this is not a “quality” non-conference opponent, no matter what way you slice it.
Players To Watch
FAU might actually be a relatively good matchup for the Illini, with just four players who are 6-foot-9 or taller. Two of those are freshman — more good news. The other two are upperclassmen, and FAU does have a number of other players listed at 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-7, but overall, nine of the players listed on the roster are underclassmen. So no matter what way you slice it, first-year head coach Dusty May has plenty of work to do. (Great name, by the way.)
Last year, Ronald Delph, Justin Massey and Gerdarius Troutman (my goodness, what a name!) were the three guys who led the offense. All three were scoring in double figures, at 14.7, 13.8 and 12.7 points, respectively. Delph also pulled down nine boards per game.
All three of them are gone, which is great news for Brad and Co.
Jailyn Ingram is the leading returning scorer, with 8.9 points and 4.3 boards last season. Ingram stands at 6-foot-7, 215 pounds, so he’ll be a guy Underwood will undoubtedly be planning for defensively.
Other than Ingram, it doesn’t appear there are many notable players who have returned from last year. A fun note: freshman 6-foot-9 forward Madiaw Niang is from the same city as Samba Kane (Dakar, Senegal). Dakar is home to over one million people, and Niang did not go to Florida Prep Academy, but his prep school is just over an hour north of FPA. Almost coincidental.
With the Illini reeling at 4-8, this one is a must-win. Brad took a boatload of (well-deserved, in my opinion) criticism after the bad loss to Missouri last weekend, and many people already seem to be jumping ship from his tenure.
Brad Underwood is a goddamn dumpster fire and the best thing that could possibly happen for illini basketball is if he gets taken down by the FBI probe for something that happened at Oklahoma State— Steve Braun (@thumpasaurus1) December 23, 2018
Personally, I’m not at the point where I am wishing legal trouble upon him, but I understand the sentiment. I felt I underestimated how many wins this team could come away with at 15 or 16, but now it looks like I have given Brad way too much credit.
Anyway, this is a must-win. If the Illini somehow lose this game at home, I might actually stop watching them every week. Trent will be coming out angry and motivated in this one, and just like in the Missouri game, if the offense can get Giorgi the ball down low, I don’t think anyone on FAU will be able to stop him. We need to see more signs of life from the other guards (I’m looking at you Da’Monte), because even when people think Illinois’ guardplay is better than other teams’, we still end up disappointed.
A winning streak has to start with one, right?
Illinois 88, FAU 71
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