Mike Thorne double-doubles this season: 11.5
Mike Thorne double-doubles: 6.5
I’ll probably end up being in the middle on this one. But heck, Thorne is a threat to get a double-double any given night. He was hobbled at Indiana last year and got nine points and nine boards in 16 minutes. He ended up having two double-doubles in eight games, and he was close to having a few more. I think he’ll have a big year, but Leron Black will rake in some rebounds. And Maverick Morgan will get his share of minutes.
I’ll say over 6.5 but under 11.5. Who was the last Illini to have more than 11.5 double-doubles in a season? Mike Davis with 15 in 2009-10.
Jaylon Tate 3 pointers: 1.5
The question makes you chuckle a little bit, but Tate is 4-of-46 (8.7 percent) from deep over a three-year span. Anyone who plays rec basketball thinks they can do better. Anyone who played rec basketball. Okay, nearly everyone who has touched a basketball. But Tate improved last year and went 2-of-11. Still, I think you’d like this over/under to be his three-point attempts. I’ll say under for that sake.
Last year, Illinois averaged 31.6 rebounds per game. Their opponents averaged 37.1 per game. Five teams in the Big Ten averaged more than 36.5 boards per game last year, and I think this team will be a top-five rebounding squad in the Big Ten. So I’ll take the over.
0.5 appearances on Saturday of the Big Ten tournament
I’m going to go out on a limb and say Illinois won’t have to play on Wednesday this year. So that’s one less game they’ll have to win. Based on how I have the Big Ten standings projected, Illinois would be the No. 5 seed playing the winner of Rutgers and Minnesota on Thursday. That’s a win. But they would catch Purdue in the 4-5 game on Friday. Let’s say Illinois gets revenge for the 31-point beatdown they took in Indianapolis last year. So I’ll go with over and say they lose to Wisconsin on Saturday – a team they haven’t beaten since Jan. 2011. I was still living in a dorm room.
8.5 players in the normal rotation (post Kipper being eligible)
Over on this one. The Illini are a deep team and they will use it. They are four-deep between the four and five positions: Mike Thorne Jr., Maverick Morgan, Leron Black and Michael Finke. Then, you have Tracy Abrams, Jalen Coleman-Lands and Malcolm Hill as your other starters. That’s seven. Kipper Nichols is No. 8, in my opinion. He’ll rotate between the two and the three. Will get minutes right away because of his defense. Everything else will be a bonus. And then you’ll have a backup for Tracy, whether that be Tate or Te’Jon Lucas.
Malcom Hill: 17.5 pts. and 7 reb. per game
Well someone beat me to Malcolm Hill stats, but I want his numbers from last year. 18.1/6.6/3.3
I’m no philosopher, but basic logic would tell you that Hill would improve upon his stats from his junior year to his senior year. Last year, Denzel Valentine went from 14.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game as a junior to 19.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg and 7.8 apg as a senior. But remember, Michigan State lost Travis Trice and Branden Dawson. In Hill’s case, he’s gaining weapons around him who will shoulder some of the load.
But on the other side of the coin, he’s a better player than he was last year. I’ll definitely take the over on his assist numbers. I think his rebounding numbers will be under seven because he will play more on the perimeter and there will be very capable interior rebounders. But if he goes over, I won’t be surprised because he’s built like a truck now. As for points, I’ll take a slight under 18.1. I just think Illinois spreads their production out more with added options, and that’s a benefit from a team standpoint. But Malcolm will get his, and the ball will be in his hands when the Illini need a bucket.
Te'Jon Lucas: 14 min per game
Under. I see Abrams playing at least 25 minutes per game. That leaves 15 minutes at the one, and I think Lucas and Tate will split to start. Tate will probably even get the nod early. I expect Lucas to beat him out at some point this year, but that still leaves him under 14 minutes per game – in my opinion.
Games started by Kipper Nichols: 1.5
Under. If healthy, Coleman-Lands and Hill will start every game at the two and three. Black and Finke will be the ones to start at the four.
Transfers at the end of the season: 1.5
Transfers at end of season: .5
I’ll go in between here. There are so many transfers in college basketball. I thought if Illinois got Jordan Goodwin to commit, that would guarantee a transfer at the end of the year. Even after not getting him, I can still see one happening.
Players averaging 12.5 points or more: 2.5
Players averaging double digit PPG: 5.5
As I wrote, I think you will see the point production spread around this year. I will say over 2.5 players averaging 12.5 points per game. Give me Malcolm, JCL and Big Mike. I’ll go under 5.5 players averaging 10 points per game. Even Indiana, who was the highest scoring team in the Big Ten last year and had some good balance, had only four. I think Black and Finke are both capable of 10 points per game, but we’ll see how the split time affects that. Abrams averaged over 10 per game as a junior, but he also took around 10 shots per game. He’ll take less than that this year.
JCL 42% from 3
Over. A limited offseason didn’t slow him down last year. Yes, a fractured shooting hand does give you some concern. But he is ahead of schedule, and the Illini hope to get him plenty of reps before the season kicks off. I only see him getting better.
39% Jordan from 3
Under. Didn’t live up to expectations with his outside shot last year. He should be better, but the problem will be getting a consistent flow of attempts. I think that keeps him under this mark.
Leron Black Technical Fouls: 2.5
Under. Flagrant fouls? Maybe over.
Number of sellout crowds: 7.5
Under. Average attendance will not decline, as it has over the last three seasons. They didn’t have a sellout last season. I think they will break that streak. But seven or more seems high. I’ll say they get a few.
Number of games Alex Austin plays more than 5 minutes (excluding exhibition): 3.5
Over/under five minutes it took me to think about this one? Over. The initial feeling is under, especially once Kipper Nichols is available to play. But there will be some games when Illinois is up big. I know that was a forgotten art for the Illini last year but you will see it again. That being said, you'd like to see the bulk of the backup minutes go to D.J. Williams and Aaron Jordan when Nichols is out. So I'll stick with under.
Number of head coaches named John Groce at the end of the season: .5
Over. He will be back.
Number of wins against teams in the top 25: 3.5
Tough one. I'll say under. Illinois will square off with a handful of good teams in the nonconference, but only one may be ranked. That will play a big part. Wisconsin and Michigan State will surely be ranked when they come to Champaign. I'm not predicting wins for the Illini in those at this point. Michigan, Ohio State and Maryland will have a chance to be ranked. And Illinois will get opportunities on the road against Indiana and Purdue, who will definitely be ranked.
Nonconference wins excluding exhibition: 11
Push. I have them going 11-2 in nonconference. 10 wins is probably more likely than 12, though. Florida State and N.C. State are probably the most talented teams on the nonconference slate. West Virginia, VCU and BYU aren’t easy opponents either.
NCAA tourney seed: 7
Over…Meaning a better seed…Meaning a lower number…So under? I think they will get in as a six seed.
Last year's 3pt attempts per game
The Illini shot 764 threes last year, which was fourth highest in the Big Ten. That was the second highest total during Groce’s tenure, as they shot 873 threes in 2012-13. I think they shoot less threes this year, as there will be more of an emphasis on getting the ball inside. Also, the Illini are without Kendrick Nunn, who shot 192 threes last year. Furthermore, you’d think Illinois will play from behind much less.
5.5 starts for Te’Jon Lucas
Under. Tracy will start every game as long as he’s healthy.
Minutes for Abrams: 30 per game
Under. I think Abrams will play at least 25 minutes per game but probably a shade under 30.
Malcolm 30-point games: 2.5
Malcolm had four of them last year. He won’t have to carry that same load. But there will be nights when he can’t be stopped and his teammates will keep feeding him. I think he has two 30-point nights, so just under.
B1G road wins: 4.5
This is a good line. I think they win at Penn State, Iowa, Nebraska and Rutgers. Based on the predictions I used for their record, that would be it. I picked a loss at Northwestern. I picked losses at Maryland, Indiana, Purdue and Michigan early on with home wins against Ohio State, Michigan and Maryland through their first seven. College basketball is rarely that simple, so they will probably swap a road win for a home loss. But I’ll stick to my picks and say under.
Dunks in the season: 7.5
With a minimum of 32 games in a season, I’d expect them to get more than eight. They should pass that total fairly easily in the nonconference.
Steals per game: .5
Way over. They had 5.8 steals per game last year as a bad defensive team.
Turnovers per game: 8
Over. Old Dominion was the best in the nation with just 9.1 turnovers per game. The Illini were No. 22 in the country with 10.5 per game.
Tracy Abrams PPG: 10.6
Under. He averaged 10.7 and 10.6 points per game in his last two seasons. But each came with him taking around 10 shots per game. I think he will take less this year. He’ll be more concerned with his assist total and playing defense.
Total wins, including postseason: 22.5
Only one that matters, 19 wins
I have them winning 22 games during the regular season. I think they will get one or two in the Big Ten tournament. Then, you have a tradition unlike any other. The NCAA tournament on CBS…Or TBS…Or TNT…Or truTV.
B1G wins: 10.5
Slightly over. I’m going with 11. I think they start 3-4 in Big Ten play and then win eight of their last 11.
Technicals for John Groce: 4.5
Under. He’ll be much happier this season.