he grew a beard
A note. UFR tomorrow. Life things.
Open practice. Basketball had one, and it was fun. The most interesting segment was an "overtime" period in which a mostly first-team unit took on a mostly second-team unit, which one of our users got on the tubes:
Impressions on the new blood:
- DJ Wilson has the potential to greatly improve Michigan's defense. Maybe not this year, especially since they're running him out at the five some, but down the road. He's tall, has long arms, is bouncy, and has the lateral agility to check anyone approximately his size. He was about the only defender who was at all effective in a transition drill where the guy on D faces a 2 on 1. He's going to block a bunch of shots. Wilson played a significant amount of five with the next guy limited.
- Ricky Doyle was participating, but only in short bursts, skipping all the running (he did pushups instead) and mostly watching. He seems limited by some sort of injury. Michigan's going to need him by the time they go to Brooklyn—he's much bigger than Donnal and Donnal struggled to finish at the rim to the point where he was sent on a run up the steps. We might retroactively appreciate Jordan Morgan's finishing this year.
- MAAR is probably your third point guard if Michigan needs to dig that deep because of foul trouble or injury. He was able to penetrate to the lane several times, but like LeVert as a freshman he usually didn't have a great idea what to do after that happened.
- Aubrey Dawkins is inexplicable. The guy is 6'6" and can jump out of the gym. The fact he had to prep and then only had a Dayton offer before Michigan swooped in is hard to believe; a guy with his athletic package should have mid-majors and lesser power conference schools leaping to offer him even if he's never seen a basketball in his life. He's going to be a lot like GRIII, I think.
- Kam Chatman is smooth and skilled. Hard to get any serious impression of shooting ability in this brief window but he looked highly capable there—and that was supposedly his weak spot. Beilein will get you to shoot.
I forgot Duncan Robinson existed so I assumed the guy wearing 22 was a walk-on and didn't pay much attention to him; Hatch participated in some drills early but that was all.
One issue: the audio was severely distorted and made it impossible to hear anything. Hopefully they fix that if/when they do this next year.
Other open practice takes. Kyle Bogenschutz:
Most impressive? Michigan sophomore wing Zak Irvin. Irvin was just doing what Irvin does, knocking down threes from all over the perimeter and at an extremely high percentage. Of the opportunities Irvin had in live settings he didn’t miss many. Early of course and just practice but if Irvin is given some more looks like he had last year he will have a chance to lead the team in scoring despite LeVert being the most complete player on the team.
He also references Wilson's defensive upside.
Offensively, Chatman looks game-ready. The 6-foot-7 freshman is confident with the ball not shy about getting his shot off. Known as a smooth and methodical player, he had a little more bounce than anticipated. The questions for Chatman remain on the defensive end of the floor. Those will be answered with time.
A defense. What kind of argument to you have to make to get me to defend Dave Brandon? This kind:
Applying ESPN Grade To Michigan's Situation: Last Friday, Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon resigned under pressure from boosters and alums unhappy with the football team's decline from the Top 25 and with stadium renovations intended to provide luxury to the 1 percent. Added to the bill of attainder should be that Michigan looks bad on graduation rates. The football graduation rate under Brandon averaged 69 percent, which would be acceptable at some lesser schools but is embarrassing at an elite institution like the University of Michigan.
He later cites Northwestern's 97% grad rate so I know what numbers he is using: the NCAA's graduation success rate metric. The NCAA's GSR site has numbers up to the 2007 cohort, who gradated in May of 2011 if they took four years. That's barely a year after Brandon's arrival and is in no way representative of anything he did academically. Michigan's APR has hit Northwestern levels the last few years as they dig out from the Carr/Rodriguez botched transition, and the GSR will follow… in like five years.
Congrats, Gregg Easterbrook. You have found a bad way to argue for Dave Brandon's dismissal. They said it couldn't be done, but you did it.
Coming up empty. The Daily has an article on Michigan's document retention policy, or lack thereof:
Despite the fact that Michigan state law requires public bodies to “protect public records from loss, unauthorized alteration, mutilation, or destruction,” according to University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald, there is no University policy currently in place to ensure that employees retain communications in accordance with state-level regulations.
State law stipulates that public records be kept and disposed of in accordance with a formal schedule, which requires that correspondence be retained for two years after the date of its creation before it can be destroyed.
University officials, however, claim that on-campus regulations are separate and exempt from state law.
“It’s our policy that it’s up to individual users to determine their own document retention,” Fitzgerald said. “The University doesn’t have a set schedule.”
Daily FOIAs for Brandon emails between March 13th and 14th of this year and between July 24th and 26th of 2014 came up with "no responsive records"; the Daily was looking for correspondence on the Gibbons matter. I can add that I filed an FOIA for the specific date of the Have A Happy Life email and, like one of our users, it came back non-responsive as well.
Hilariously, the University is arguing that it is "not a formal part of state government" to justify this behavior… after repeatedly arguing in court that they are. In yet further evidence that the Michigan FOIA department is out of step with standard practice:
When the Daily submitted requests for e-mail archives of various other Big Ten athletic directors in mid-2014, representatives from MSU, the University of Iowa, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Nebraska, Purdue University and the University of Illinois responded with offers to provide the records. The University of Minnesota, Indiana University, Pennsylvania State University and Ohio State University did not respond immediately.
A lack of transparency is always in service to the people entrenched at the top of the institution and not the institution itself.
Boo, John Clayton, boo. Clayton on Olbermann:
In brief: Clayton asserts that Harbaugh's going to be somewhere else next year but it is likely to be an NFL team, not Michigan.
Etc.: The Big Ten is bad at hockey. Except for Minnesota. Hockey commit Kyle Connor is kind of a big deal, and explicit that he is going to honor his commitment. Derrick Walton is set to make a leap. Tom Crean wrecked his program. Smart Football has a glossary.
What this is: We yoinked Joe Pichey from MMMGoBluBBQ to share his tailgating recipes and Stubb's offered to sponsor it. This is one of those things where we really liked their BBQ sauce, and they like this blog, and the blog likes Joe's recipes, and then suddenly we're at the store ordering cold cuts.
Trust me, you will love this one. You don't have to admit that you love it, but you will. This always gets the most "Huh" & "Wha" looks, but disappears 5 minutes later. Don't forget your mustard, cheese and Texas Toast for this one. It makes a great sandwich. This is as easy and cheap as it gets and your guests will think you are a BBQ genius, so give it a go.
3 - 5 lb Chub of Bologna
Buffalo or BBQ Sauce
[Click through to see where we're going with this]
News bullets and other items:
Jabrill Peppers will redshirt. He was initially supposed to be out 6-8 weeks but isn’t where he needs to be to play again this season. He’s 4-5 weeks away from being healthy and will be fine for spring practice
Derrick Green is 2-3 weeks away from “doing things” despite initially being ruled out for the season
Noah Furbush had surgery to fix an injury that occurred in an All-Star game and has only participated in meetings this season
Drake Harris is slowly getting better and able to do more things, but we won’t see him this season
Hoke met briefly with Hackett this week, and they talked about day-to-day aspects of the program and how the team has stayed together
Hoke said the one change they’ll make as far as road games go is not turning the ball over, which I personally am a proponent of
“I think we had a really strong, energetic practice yesterday outside. Trying to get as many of the elements as we could because weather could be a factor. Wind will be a factor at Northwestern. Excited about the opportunity to go back to Chicago. There's quite a bit of Michigan alums that will have an opportunity to come to the game. It's important that we, in the football game itself we've got to start fast. Got to start and then continue that throughout the entire game.
“With Jabrill I had told you guys I would probably have an answer a little bit and we are going to redshirt him for this year. Him and I have had a lot of different conversations. Talked to his mother, talked to the doctors, trainers, and everybody who should be included in the conversation but a couple things that he's done very well is take care of himself. He's done great with the treatments, great with the rehab and all those things. He's done a tremendous job in school right now academically and he's excited about when he can get back on the field. He's improved but he's just not going to be where you want a guy to be who has that kind of ability. So as far as that goes– obviously we’re excited about this weekend.”
What's Jabrill’s injury?
“He's got a leg injury. That's probably as specific as all get.”
Well, he had the ankle earlier. Is it the same thing? Is it a different injury?
“It's a leg injury.”
Will that require surgery or can you not elaborate on that?
“Well, he doesn't need surgery. It's one of those things that just if I could tell you exactly the medical diagnosis I would but he's improving as we go forward.”
He's expected to make a full recovery?
“Oh yeah. No question.”
About Northwestern's offense. They've struggled. We talked about this a little bit Monday, but what did they do that's similar to Indiana and what did they do better?
“Well, I think they struggled with Iowa but Pat [Fitzgerald], I heard some of his comments and it was one of those games where nothing kind of got put together. They beat Wisconsin and they beat Penn State at Penn State. Played Nebraska very well. They were ahead in the football game and then Nebraska came back and did a nice job. From an offensive standpoint, I think Jackson, the back, is a guy who is awfully good. He has very good burst, very good speed. The offensive line, basically all but one is the same line we faced a year ago. I don't think we slowed them down a whole lot a year ago like we’d like to, so from that standpoint– then Siemian. He was off a little bit on Saturday and give Iowa credit for that but you look at other games, you watch the Minnesota game, you watch other games and he can really, really be effective.”
With Jabrill, would you expect that he be ready for spring practice?
“Yeah. Yeah, I think he'll be, you know – initially it was 6 to 8 weeks we thought was kind of the timeline on it and so I think he'll be in good shape probably in the next 4 to 5 weeks.”
When do you expect to have a timeframe for when Derrick [Green] can start doing things again?
You know, I think it's going to be another 2 to 3 weeks as far as I can tell with what we've talked about. He's getting better. He's doing a lot of alternate conditioning and things that you want him to do. Both of them and all of the guys when they’re banged up a little bit is they’re in meetings. One of the things Jabrill has done a nice job in the meetings, and making sure he understands the checks that are made, stuff like that out on the field. So I think Derrick, he's getting better. I can't give you an exact time[frame].
[After THE JUMP: Injury-infopalooza rages on]
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan spent almost every standard down in a 4-3 over with Ross as your SAM. Once Indiana managed to get Ross flipped way out to the sideline. He's the guy at the bottom of the screen here:
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: No Henry, so lots of Wormley and lesser amounts of Godin. Gedeon made the odd appearance when Michigan went to a 3-3-5. Countess didn't play much… pretty sure only nickel packages.
The rest was as per usual.
[After THE JUMP: shortest UFR in a long time, because Indiana.]
Previously: Gardening Lessons (The Story), Preview Podcast, Preseason All-Big Ten Teams, Point Guards, Wings Part 1 (LeVert, Irvin), Wings Part 2 (Chatman, Wilson, Dawkins, MAAR), Bigs (Donnal, Doyle, Bielfeldt), Media Day Player Interviews, Big Ten Newcomers, Big Ten Outlook Part 1
After yesterday's look at the bottom half of the Big Ten, it's time to check out the top seven squads in the conference. There's one certainty heading into the season: Wisconsin is the favorite. After that, question marks abound. Can Ohio State score? Can Michigan hold up inside? Can Izzo work his magic with an underwhelming roster? Is Nebrasketball for real? I don't claim to have answers, so here goes nothing...
1. Wisconsin (Last Year: 30-8, 12-6 B1G, lost in Final Four)
Frank Kaminsky (#44) is the prototype John Beilein big man. [Fuller]
Head Coach: Bo Ryan; 704-224 career, 321-121 at Wisconsin (15th year)
Preseason KenPom Ranking: 6th (#1 B1G)
Key Returners: G Traevon Jackson, G Josh Gasser, G Bronson Koenig, F Sam Dekker, F Nigel Hayes, C Frank Kaminsky
Key Losses: G Ben Brust
Top Newcomers: F Ethan Happ
When looking at the Big Ten predictions, there are only two squads that are locked into their positions: Rutgers, bringing up the rear, and Wisconsin, the unanimous choice to win the conference.
It's easy to see why the experts love the Badgers. Bo Ryan unleashed an offense that was eminently watchable (gasp!), finishing fourth nationally in adjusted efficiency, which allowed Wisconsin to not just overcome a step back on defense, but ride a stellar last two months of the season into a Final Four berth before falling to Kentucky by a point. (Know that feel, Wisco bros.) Ryan's squad loses just one major contributor, Ben Brust, and have a ready-made replacement in sophomore Bronson Koenig.
Frank Kaminsky is the leading preseason candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year after becoming an inside-outside force at the center position last season; John Beilein may go so far as to hurt a fly if it resulted in a seven-footer with Kaminsky's ability ending up in Ann Arbor. The rest of the frontcourt is excellent, as well; Sam Dekker is arguably the top draft prospect in the Big Ten, an athletic slasher who could be really difficult to stop if he gains consistency with his outside shot, while big-bodied sophomore Nigel Hayes was so effective on the block even the notoriously freshman-averse Ryan had to give him significant minutes.
One infuriatingly good shooting specialist, Ben Brust, is finally gone, but Josh Gasser is still around to break hearts and shatter dreams. (Death to backboards, amen.) Koenig should step into the starting lineup and provide a more diverse offensive skillset than Brust, though his three-point shooting isn't yet on Brust's level.
Arguably the weakest spot on this team is point guard, and that features senior third-year starter Traevon Jackson, a solid all-around player whose main weakness is a propensity for going heroball despite being surrounded by more efficient scorers. It'll be a surprise if Wisconsin doesn't finish atop the conference, and they'll be right in the mix for a #1 seed—perhaps even the #1 overall seed.
[Hit THE JUMP to see how the other contenders stack up.]
Could he keep his job?
You can't twirl a dead cat anymore without hitting someone claiming, "if Brady Hoke wins out he could keep his job." If you ignore the fact that at no point has this team even competed with a competent team, there is still too much against him, right? If somehow the stars align and a UM team that was embarrassed in New Jersey can beat an OSU team that will probably be favored by 20+, Hoke is still gone, right?
I'm terrified that all this smoke about him still having a chance means there's fire. The last thing UM needs is to have Hoke Wayne Fontes his way into another chance. Pleases just tell me that a New AD means a new coach and I can enjoy watching Drake Johnson run roughshod over NW.
-Dylan [Ed: not that Dylan]
It's worse than that, actually: there are a number of people asserting crazy things about what happens if Michigan squeaks into a bowl game.
First, that is not likely. Michigan is a dog to a Northwestern team that just got blitzed by Iowa, and they'll probably be a slight favorite against Maryland before being a two-TD dog against OSU. Going to a bowl at all is a 30% proposition.
Even if Michigan finishes the season "strong" I can't imagine Hoke returning for a thousand reasons we've all seen. The major one is what happens to the season ticket base. It has to take a significant hit if Hoke's back, and with Brandon expanding his expenses even more rapidly than he expanded Michigan's revenue that could see Michigan dip into the red. That's not tenable.
Neither is Hoke. Without a miracle upset against Ohio State this year's resume consists of wins over some of the worst teams Division I has to offer and comprehensive blowouts against any team with a pulse. In year four, with an offense that is more experienced than Ohio State's.
Are we going back to the Duderstadt attitude?
What's up mgoblog,
I have read a lot about " be careful what you wish for" in terms of firing Dave. I think all football fans agree that we need to pay our coaches competitive salaries and Dave was on the same page.
It has been discussed most recently by Sam Webb that Schlissel has little interest in paying a coach top dollar.
Do you think there is some truth to this or do you think this is just speculation.
I am worried Michigan will hire a decent coach and be content with 8-4.
Mike V in CT.
I don't have much to go on in this department and I don't think many people know what's going on inside Schlissel's head. But: I seriously doubt that Schlissel is going to say anything to his athletic director about appropriate salaries as long as the department stays in the black. He's a doctor and a biology professor; he's going to look at numbers and do the thing that makes sense.
Since one of the best ways to keep the department in the black is to hire a real good football coach, I doubt a couple million a year is going to make or break M's ability to get the right guy.
If there's anything resembling a reconfiguring of priorities I would expect it comes in the academic component of the athletic department. That's something I forgot about in the previous mailbag when I was searching for good things Brandon did—under his watch Michigan pulled out of the Rodriguez transition APR disaster and graduated literally every senior FB player under Hoke. I don't think an emphasis on getting plausible students is going to have a ton of impact since Michigan is avoiding borderline guys already.
Michigan might scale back some of the more extravagant building projects for non-revenue sports, but I'm of the opinion that's a good thing. Palaces make some sense for the revenue sports because they, you know, generate revenue. (And those are all done anyway.) Adding permanent maintenance and debt service costs to the U's bottom line puts more stress on the fans to provide money and reduces Michigan's ability to get quality coaches in all sports.
[After THE JUMP: student attendance against Indiana, turnaround timeframe, WHYYYYY]
Shane's not Gardner enough to be worth changing the offense to take better advantage of his legs, but the offense might be? [Upchurch]
Ace: What type of offense do you want M's coach to run next year? Explain how you're factoring current personnel vs. ideal scheme when coming to your decision as well, if you could.
Brian: Whatever the coach is good at. This was the right move for Rodriguez in 2007 when there wasn't much talent no matter what you did with it. It was not in 2011 when you had a sui generis talent like Denard at your disposal. 2011 Michigan fought it at times (Notre Dame, Iowa) but for the most part shrugged and tried to adapt.
I'm not seeing a whole lot that's worth adapting to at the moment. Morris looks far away from viability, Speight's a redshirting unknown, and Malzone will be a true freshman (unless he decommits). The OL is going to be the OL still, and the main distinction between OLs is what you try to run a lot of, not whether there's a fast QB behind you or a slow one.
So, yeah, whatever your bag is, man. Obviously you can't run a spread 'n' shred with the available personnel but you've got enough mobility in the QBs to keep 'em honest Forcier-style if that is your bag, and as Mississippi State and Ohio State have demonstrated in recent years there's quite a lot of power in spread offenses that want to go that route.
And unless it's Harbaugh it's likely to be a spread guy. Broken record time: pro-style coaches attractive enough to get the job and poachable are hard to find.
[After the jump: sirens]
Jack Miller, Devin Gardner, Jake Ryan
Devin, we ask you every week but do you feel like you’re getting closer to 100%? It looks like every time you take a big hit it aggravates it a little bit. Is that just part of the game?
DG: “Yeah, sometimes but I fell like I’m getting healthier and healthier. I’m just doing everything I can to contribute as much as possible.”
Talk about your ability to read defenses. Have you made progress in Nussmeier’s system would you say?
DG: “Yeah, I think so.”
In what sense?
DG: “All of it. Making reads and getting us in the right plays, things like that.”
Devin, is it frustrating at all because there’s times where it seems like you want to put your foot down and run but it doesn’t seem like it’s there?
DG: “Yeah, it’s always frustrating because of the type of player I am and what I’m usually able to do but you’ve got to find a way.”
How limited would you say you are feet-wise with your ability to run?
DG: “I’m getting better. I mean, I’ll see on Saturday.”
How much is that changing what’s called for you, because you can have audibles and you can make decisions but is it your decision that you’re maybe not going to push it in terms of getting out and scrambling or is it Nussmeier’s?
DG: “This past week I didn’t have to scramble much so luckily I didn’t need to.”
On that 10-yard run it looked like that was one you tried to take off on…
DG: “Yeah, I probably would have scored [last year] but I got the first down and that’s what the team needed and it kept the chains moving, so that’s the most important part.”
[More after THE JUMP]
A NEW ROUND OF HE GONE. After San Francisco lost to the Rams in ridiculous fashion to drop to 4-4, the knives—already out—added numbers to their ranks. Jerry Rice:
"I think he’s gone," Rice said. … "We don’t really know if he wants to come back and be the head coach for the San Francisco 49ers...Maybe that’s starting to wear and tear on the team and it’s taking its toll."
San Francisco 49ers Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice believes coach Jim Harbaugh's act is starting to wear thin, in part because Harbaugh's "collegiate mentality" is not suited to the pro game.
"I have heard some complaints from some players that he likes to try to coach with the collegiate mentality, and that's just not going to work in the NFL," said Rice.
“So I stood right by the team,” Young said. “It was right before halftime and afterwards. And I remember calling to my security guy that I’ve known for years and years, Jeff Rodriguez. I said ‘Jeff, something’s wrong with these guys. There’s a bad vibe. Guys on and off the field.’ … A lot of complaining, a lot of moaning coming off the field.”
49ers GM Trent Baalke agreed with that take without getting too specific.
Mercury News reporter Tim Kawakami:
Less than 50%, then let's see how the season plays out. RT @chang358 your odds for harbaugh coaching Niners next year?
— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) November 4, 2014
At 4-4, San Fransico is three games back of 7-1 Arizona and one back of the Seahawks, and the way the NFC is breaking down this year the wild card teams are likely to have fancy records. The 49ers are currently behind the Packers, Cowboys, and Seahawks.
ON THE AD SEARCH. I got nothin'.
I don't know how other people are getting more than that. Schlissel just told the Daily the search is restricted to his head at the moment, so I regard all insider information on this skeptically. I don't suspect bad faith on anyone's part. I just doubt any of these sources have a great handle on the situation no matter how many times reporters use "Fact" as a sentence. Fact. (Actually, opinion.)
That goes double given the wildly divergent timelines that have been thrown out there. Sam Webb was mentioning Hackett could be around 18-24 months on WTKA, which freaked a lot of people out; Rivals was first positing nine months and now has their prediction in the heart of common sense, mid-December; Coaching Scoop just asserted that the goal was to have an AD in place by the time the whistle blows on the Ohio State game. That's 25 days from now.
In the absence of any information you don't already have or anything resembling consensus amongst the people who say they have some, I resort to common sense—
—nevermind. I resorted to common sense right before I projected Brady Hoke had a 0.0 percent chance of being Michigan's coach, so common sense and I aren't on speaking terms.
It is worth noting that the long Hackett timeframes may be maximums instead of likely lengths and may not preclude a long-term AD being brought in, with Hackett as a bridging aide.
ATHLETIC DIRECTOR CANDIATES OUTSIDE THE MICHIGAN BOX. A few candidates have drawn mention:
- Joe Schad reported that Michigan "has targeted" Northwestern AD Jim Phillips. Phillips is the president of NACDA, which is the national trade group for ADs and was AD of the year a couple years back. Before Northwestern, Phillips was the AD at NIU; he's an Illinois grad. FWIW: I've heard from Northwestern people that Phillips is going nowhere, and he's got the list of spurned suitors to back that up.
- Football Scoop's Pete Roussell brought up Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione. The site just doubled down on that, saying "sources within the industry" thought he was the name and that he would take the job if it was offered. (Bob Stoops would not be coming along.)
- Sam Webb suggested that Michigan would look at Greg Byrne, the Arizona AD. This would of course be the most hilarious option.
Meanwhile, Warde Manuel told his local paper that he hasn't heard from Michigan.
Previously: Gardening Lessons (The Story), Preview Podcast, Preseason All-Big Ten Teams, Point Guards, Wings Part 1 (LeVert, Irvin), Wings Part 2 (Chatman, Wilson, Dawkins, MAAR), Bigs (Donnal, Doyle, Bielfeldt), Media Day Player Interviews, Big Ten Newcomers
The hoops preview returns after a brief AD-chaos-related absence; in fact, Alex already got the jump on me this week with his impressively thorough look at the top newcomers to the Big Ten. It's time for me to also turn my attention to the conference at large. Today, I'll take a look at how I expect the bottom half of the conference to shake out. The "Wisconsin & Friends" portion will go up later this week.
8. Illinois (Last Year: 20-15, 7-11 B1G, lost 2nd round of NIT)
oh was it ever so tempting to put Stauskas' end-of-half buzzer-beater here [Fuller]
Head Coach: Jon Groce; 128-84 career, 43-28 at Illinois (3rd year)
Preseason KenPom Ranking: 38th (#10 B1G)
Key Returners: G Kendrick Nunn, G/F Rayvonte Rice, C Nnanna Egwu
Key Losses: G Tracy Abrams (injury), F Joseph Bertrand, F Jon Ekey
Top Newcomers: G Aaron Cosby (transfer), G Ahmad Starks (transfer), F Leron Black
My #8 team in the Big Ten—and KenPom's #10—should make a push for the NCAA tournament bubble, in case you were wondering about the depth of the conference this year. Illinois gets a solid influx of talent in Jon Groce's third year while bringing back several key pieces from last season's NIT squad.
After finishing as the worst-shooting team in the conference last year, the Illini get a big boost in that regard from a pair of transfers, Aaron Cosby (39% 3-pt at Seton Hall) and Ahmad Starks (39.5% at Oregon State, where he holds the school record for most 3PM). The diminutive Starks, a shoot-first point with a solid outside shot and iffy efficiency elsewhere, should step right into the starting point guard spot to replace Tracy Abrams, who will miss the season with a torn ACL. Cosby should also get a big role in the rotation, likely splitting minutes on the wing with sophomore guard Kendrick Nunn.
Nunn and Rayvonte Rice give the Illini a pair of solid slashers off the wing, and while Rice's shooting comes and goes, Nunn connected well from deep as a freshman last season. The team is a little lacking in the frontcourt, however. Nnanna Egwu, their lanky no-offense, all-defense center, returns for his senior season; he is what he is at this point. Sophomore Malcolm Hill should split minutes at the four with top-50 freshman Leron Black; Hill emerged as a decent stretch four option as last season went along, while Black is the more physical and athletic option, which may be preferable next to Egwu.
The Illini should be a strong defensive team again this year; if they want to earn an invitation to the Big Dance, however, they'll have to be a much more efficient offensive squad. The addition of Cosby and Starks should help, but it'll take a more disciplined Rice (30% on 156 3PA in '13-14) and perhaps a breakout year from Nunn for them to really take the next step forward.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the bottom half of the Big Ten.]