Who Has Become the Power in Illinois?

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In the state of Illinois, there are twelve Division I schools: Bradley, Chicago State, DePaul, Eastern Illinois, Illinois, Illinois-Chicago, Illinois State, Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois-Carbondale, Northwestern, Loyola and Western Illinois.  With the addition of Southern Illinois-Edwardsville next season, there will be thirteen.  The most prominent schools in correspondence with their conference are DePaul of the Big East and Illinois of the Big Ten.  However, there are two other programs who are becoming nationally known program in Missouri Valley Conference schools Bradley and Southern Illinois-Carbondale.

Over the past few seasons, Southern Illinois-Carbondale has seen a very high success rate.  They’ve been to the NCAA tournament a boat load of times and made a Sweet Sixteen run last season, only to lose a close battle to a very tough Kansas squad. Coach Chris Lowery has seen success through his defensive play.  However, he has been adding more and more offensive weapons to his program.  This season he added Carlton Fay who rated as the state’s top post player only behind DePaul’s Mac Koshwal.  Additionally, they added Justin Bocot who is a scorer deluxe though he won’t be eligible to participate in college athletics until the 2008-09 season.  The addition of do-it-all point guard, Kevin Dillard, only strengths the Salukis offense.  Look for them to continue to work their way into national supremacy.

DePaul is the biggest school in the Chicago area but their success rate hasn’t been very high in recent years.  Last year, Coach Wainwright picked his efforts back up and added a few big time recruits in 6’4″ Dar Tucker and 6’8″ Mac Koshwal.  Both should be immediate impacts this season.  He also landed Willie Walker and Thijin Moses, two of the best in-state prospect, a season ago.  If the Blue Demons want to be a successful team in the future, they’ll have to continue to pull in big time recruits to compete with the other teams of the Big East Conference.  Also, Coach Wainwright will need to develop players a lot better as Wilson Chandler, an NBA draft pick this past season, didn’t improve much, outside of added body strength, since his high school years.  His draft selection was based a lot on potential.  If Wainwright learns to develop the high quality recruits he has continued to get, DePaul may become the “beast of the Big East”.

The University of Illinois has been the powerhouse school of the state for a long time. However, since their 2nd place run at the beginning of Bruce Weber’s term, it seems that they have been slipping from the top slowly but surely.  Recruiting has been a big question under Coach Weber and staff.  They haven’t been able to land the state of Illinois’ big dog since they took over as they’ve lost Shaun Livingston to Duke (opted for NBA draft), Julian Wright to Kansas, Jon Scheyer to Duke, Sherron Collins to Kansas, and Derrick Rose to Memphis.  Last season it was brutal watching the Fighting Illini on offense.  Hopefully recruits-Demetri McCamey and Rodney Alexander will be able to add more offense though there is a strong sense they will need even more.  2008 prospect, Iman Shumpert, would be an amazing get for the Illini but he has virtually eliminated them despite numerous rumors stating that the staff is still involved.  Additionally, they continue to lose the instate recruits that have been called “Plan B” but have consistently failed to get their “Plan A” players.  Bruce is a good coach with great principles, especially defensively, but his style of play is more suited for a mid major program with a great deal of role players.  The problem is he’s going after the wrong people and isn’t recruiting in-state hard enough.  There’s no reason they should not have the top recruiting class in the state on a year in, year out basis.

Bradley University has been very successful in recent years.  Their trip to the Sweet 16 two seasons ago has helped Coach Les establish himself as one of the top mid major coaches throughout the nation.  He racked up a top 50 recruiting class for this upcoming year and is in position to have an even better class in 2008.  In fact, he has already gotten consideration from a few instate recruits who aren’t considering other instate schools.  Lewis Jackson recently trimmed his list to five and Bradley was included while Illinois and DePaul were not, despite offering him.  Additionally, though the Fighting Illini are seemingly out the BU Braves are still in contention to land 6’4″ super prospect, Iman Shumpert along with North Carolina, Marquette, and a short list of others who have all offered.  They are doing a great job recruiting instate and could see themselves with a class of Shumpert, Jackson, and 6’3″ sharpshooter, Matt Roth.  It would easily be the best 2008 class in the state.

It looks as if the sleeper instate program will be Illinois State.  They’ve probably got the best hire of any mid major this season.  Coach Jankovich is a coach with a winning tradition and an uptempo style of play which will fit the Redbirds much better than the unorthodox style of play Porter Moser used.  He will utilize both his athletes and his shooters to the best of their abilities.  Don’t be surprised if the Redbirds finish in the top three of the MVC this season.  Jankovich’s recruiting efforts have also proved worthy already in the early part of his term as head coach by landing Decatur’s 6’8″ Jeremy Robinson over Big Ten and Big XII programs.

It looks as if the Salukis will have the top team coming into the 2007-08 season and are beginning to build their program to be the state’s best along with Coach Les and the Bradley Braves as it seems both will surpass the Fighting Illini in the near future unless there is a change in bench personnel.  DePaul has a chance to host a very solid season as well and with Tim Jankovich at the head of the ship Illinois State may be on tap to being mentioned with the elite teams in the Midwest in the near future.

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One Response to “Who Has Become the Power in Illinois?”

  1. thisisge Says:

    I mean Illinois STATE will SURPRISE EVERONE! My bad.

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