With new Head Coach John Groce calling the shots, it was weird to watch the Illinois Fighting Illini open up a season with Bruce Weber. This of course being the first time since the 2002-2003 campaign that Bruce Weber wasn't the Head Coach for Illinois.
To kick off opening night for the 2012-2013 NCAA Basketball season, the Illinois Fighting Illini hosted the Colgate Raiders. This game was the very first time that I got to see Coach John Groce, other than some highlight glimpses of him coaching in the NCAA tournament last season for the Ohio Bobcats.
From what I saw tonight, I liked what I saw from Groce. He seems like a great basketball mind, and he loved using substitutions to make matchups, that way he could get a good glimpse of who meshed well on the floor together.
Tonight, the Illinois Fighting Illini defeated the Colgate Raiders by the final score of 75-55, an impressive way to start off the season for Illinois.
Illinois was very 3-point happy to begin the game, hitting on 10 of their first 18 shots from deep to end the first half with a 19 point lead. It was fun to see us hit so many 3-point shots, but you know what they say, "teams who live by the three, often die by the three". That scares me. Illinois loved to shoot 3-point shots last season, and to begin this season, it seemed like they hoisted up more than ever before.
As far as the rotation goes, Groce started 3 of the 5 players that I predicted that he would start. The two players that he started who I thought would come off of the bench were Tyler Griffey and Tracy Abrams. The two players who I actually thought would start was Sam McLaurin and Joseph Bertrand.
Bertrand I thought would come in and start at the small forward position, and McLaurin at the power forward spot. Bertrand is very athletic, and has an automatic pull-up mid-range jump shot from the top of the free throw line. McLaurin is a transfer student who can rebound, defend, block shots, and add some toughness to our frontcourt. I guess that Groce felt as though Tracy Abrams is the only pure point guard on our roster, so he should be the one to set up our offense, and since Griffey knows how the Illinois system works, he got the nod over the new guy from Coastal Carolina.
Brandon Paul, a player who flashes a ton of potential, but has been to inconsistant to put it all together, led the Illini to victory tonight. Paul finished with a total of 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists. He looked pretty good out there, and he didn't ALWAYS settle for threes! However, he did hoist up 8 during the contest, connecting on 3 attempts.
Nnanna Egwu, a guy coming into the rotation, struggled shooting tonight, connecting on only 3-10 shots and ending with 7 points. With Meyers Leonard gone and in the NBA, Egwu is coming in as a very raw, athletic sophomore center who Illinois is hoping can learn from watching Meyers Leonard last season.
D.J. Richardson, a senior on this Illini team, really struggled shooting the ball tonight, connecting on only 25% of his shots, while only dropping 3 out of 10 three point shot attempts. Not too efficient for a guy who is supposed to supply that veteran experience for this young Illini team.
So in the end, tonight was a decent way to start off the season. There was a lot of good, but there was also some bad. Groce is an excellent coach, and I am sure that he will make adjustments to this team and the way that he coaches them so that we can perform better down the road this season.