Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 12/23/12
The Illinois Fighting Illini suffered their first loss last night to Mizzou, but they’re still 12-1. And nationally ranked. I think any Illinois fan would have taken 12-1 at this point when the season started. This Illini team will go as far as their seniors will take them. And I’m not talking about Tyler Griffey. Four year starter guards D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul are the keys to the Illini maintaining that top ranking and getting a high seed in March. And then doing something with it. There’s a big difference between this year’s team and last year’s. And it’s due to the coaching change from Bruce Weber to John Groce. And the new system in place. Richardson talked about the style. “keep the floor spread, coach likes to play at a good pace,” he said. “the guards are more involved with ball screens and keep the floor spaced, the guards don’t do too much getting in the paint, setting the screens and Weber was more more of a motion coach, coach Groce is more of keeping it spread,” he continued. Sums it up perfectly. Weber wasn’t big on letting his shooters shoot. Groce is more trigger-happy and it pays off. Richardson, the second leading scorer and rebounder on the team and leading three-point shooter. He did a lot of offseason work to work on his first step and his goal is to be the Big Ten Defensive player of the year. He did a lot of work with resistance bands around the knees Brandon Paul leads the team in scoring, assists and rebounds. When he’s on, he might just be the best shooting guard in the nation. With him consistency is key. “One thing that’s helped me is better shot selection. I know have a green light in the system, but at the same time I want to take shots within the offense as well as get my teammates the ball,” he said. In addition to being the guy who stuffs the stat sheet, he has to be a leader in another way. His job is to be the coach on the floor. “Just trying to keep everyone together and on the same page. There were some times last year when we hit a rough patch and kind of expanded apart,” he said about the 17-15 disaster in 2011-12. This year will be a huge challenge in conference play as the Illini will be in a league where it seems like everyone is ranked. “I see what I’ve seen the past few years the best conference in the nation, there’s so many competitive guys and so many competitive coaches,” Paul said. Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Chicago Tribune.com, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports A Fulbright scholar, published author and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; he’s also a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.  
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Jimmy Butler rips Marcus Smart in post-Game 4 interview: ‘He’s not about that life’

New NHL record set as 18 first round games require overtime

Fred Hoiberg rips officials, says Isaiah Thomas allowed to carry ball

Derrick Rose hangs out with Bulls owner at playoff game

WATCH: Robin Lopez unties, then reties Jae Crowder’s shoe in strange sequence

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Tyronn Lue drops hilarious quote about LeBron James’ first-round success

Clarke MacArthur scores Senators’ series-winning goal after miraculous return to ice

Adam Schefter reminds everyone Jimmy Garoppolo is not getting traded

Russell Westbrook confronts reporter for question about Thunder bench

WATCH: Rockets bench laughs as Andre Roberson misses free throw

Steve Kerr does not rule out missing remainder of playoffs

Getaway Day: Wild, wacky and weird week in MLB (and that's just the injuries)

11 names you need to know for the NFL Draft

The 'It's not good to play the King' quiz

Best of Yardbarker: David Fizdale and the Grizzlies won't go down quietly

Three Up, Three Down: Home run hitters are heating up

The 'Even the Browns can't mess this one up' quiz

25 times Mother Nature disrupted sports

In some ways, Dan Rooney was just another NFL owner

Box Score 4/20: When Westbrook isn't enough

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The '♫Happy Birthday Simpsons. Simpsons, it's your birthday♫' quiz

White House championship visits over the years

College Basketball News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Getaway Day: Wild, wacky and weird week in MLB

11 names you need to know for the NFL Draft

The 'It's not good to play the King' quiz

Three Up, Three Down: Home run hitters are heating up

The 'Even the Browns can't mess this one up' quiz

In some ways, Dan Rooney was just another NFL owner

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The '♫Happy Birthday Simpsons. Simpsons, it's your birthday♫' quiz

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: David Fizdale calls B.S.

Kris Bryant can become the next Derek Jeter — and more

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker