Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Illinois Basketball Preview: Illini Facing Good Team in North Florida

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Illinois Basketball Preview: Illini Facing Good Team in North Florida

Article excerpt

SPRINGFIELD, ILL. * Check the names of the opponents and most won't recognize how tough Illinois' non-conference basketball schedule actually is.

North Florida. North Dakota State. Chattanooga. Alabama- Birmingham.

Cupcakes, you say?

John Groce knows better.

Beginning with Friday night's regular-season opener against North Florida, Illinois faces a difficult and dangerous non-conference schedule filled with preseason conference favorites and teams that reached the NCAA Tournament one season ago.

North Florida is just such a team, one that won 23 games a year ago and reached the NCAA Tournament by winning the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament championship game. This year, picked as the preseason favorite to win the regular-season conference title, North Florida returns four starters, seven of its top eight scorers and boasts both the preseason conference Player of the Year (Beau Beach) as well as the defensive Player of the Year (Demarcus Daniels).

This is a team that knocked off Purdue last December. At Purdue. Illinois knows all too well how difficult that assignment can be.

Friday night's task may be more difficult considering this "home" game won't actually be played at home. This is the first of four regular-season November games that have been shifted to the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield while the current phase of the State Farm Center renovation project is being completed.

When discussing his own team in practice and in one exhibition game, Groce has mostly worried about defense and rebounding. He figures Illinois will need to be sharp in both areas Friday.

"They shoot the 3 really well and from multiple positions," Groce said. "At times they will have five on the floor who can do that and that makes them really, really dangerous.

"Dallas Moore reminds me of a kid who played for me at Ohio (D.J. Cooper). He's a lefty, one of the best point guards we'll play all season. …

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