What difficult decisions does Weber have to deal with? The first one will be whether or not to redshirt freshman CJ Jackson. The second one will be who will join James Augustine, Dee Brown, and Brian Randle in the Fighting Illini starting lineup. The third decision will be who will fill out the Illini's rotation, which eight or nine players.
These decisions are not easy, especially when different players excelled at different times during the exhibition season. On Wednesday night, both Shaun Pruitt and CJ Jackson played above the expectations I had for them, and I was pleasantly surprised, especially by Pruitt's consistent rebounding in the exhibition season. Also playing well in their first time in front of the Illini faithful are the two freshmen guards, Chester Frazier and Jamar Smith. Smith has especially stood out with his shooting, and has been a consistent offensive threat for the Illini, despite the lapses on defense that are expected of most freshmen.
|Player 1||Player 2||Player 3||Player 4||Player 5||Differential||Time on Floor|
|Dee Brown||Rich McBride||Brian Randle||Shaun Pruitt||James Augustine||5||4:09|
|Dee Brown||Jamar Smith||Brian Randle||Marcus Arnold||James Augustine||-3||1:58|
|Dee Brown||Jamar Smith||Brian Randle||Marcus Arnold||James Augustine||-2||0:16|
|Dee Brown||Jamar Smith||Brian Randle||Marcus Arnold||James Augustine||-5||2:14|
|Dee Brown||Jamar Smith||Brian Randle||CJ Jackson||James Augustine||0||1:43|
|Dee Brown||Jamar Smith||Calvin Brock||Marcus Arnold||James Augustine||-1||1:35|
|Dee Brown||Jamar Smith||Calvin Brock||Marcus Arnold||Shaun Pruitt||5||2:40|
|Dee Brown||Jamar Smith||Rich McBride||Shaun Pruitt||James Augustine||7||3:49|
|Dee Brown||Jamar Smith||Rich McBride||Shaun Pruitt||James Augustine||2||1:59|
|Dee Brown||Jamar Smith||Rich McBride||Shaun Pruitt||James Augustine||9||5:48|
|Dee Brown||Calvin Brock||Brian Randle||Shaun Pruitt||James Augustine||6||2:02|
|Dee Brown||Chester Frazier||Calvin Brock||CJ Jackson||James Augustine||2||2:23|
|Dee Brown||Chester Frazier||Rich McBride||Marcus Arnold||Shaun Pruitt||0||1:14|
|Dee Brown||Chester Frazier||Brian Randle||CJ Jackson||James Augustine||1||3:16|
|Chester Frazier||Calvin Brock||Brian Randle||CJ Jackson||James Augustine||2||0:21|
|Chester Frazier||Calvin Brock||Brian Randle||CJ Jackson||Marcus Arnold||-2||0:49|
|Chester Frazier||Calvin Brock||Brian Randle||CJ Jackson||Marcus Arnold||0||1:12|
|Chester Frazier||Calvin Brock||Brian Randle||CJ Jackson||Marcus Arnold||-2||2:01|
|Chester Frazier||Calvin Brock||Brian Randle||Shaun Pruitt||Marcus Arnold||2||1:44|
|Chester Frazier||Jamar Smith||Rich McBride||Marcus Arnold||Shaun Pruitt||3||1:40|
|Chester Frazier||Jamar Smith||Rich McBride||Marcus Arnold||Shaun Pruitt||0||0:15|
|Chester Frazier||Jamar Smith||Rich McBride||Marcus Arnold||Shaun Pruitt||0||1:01|
|Chester Frazier||Jamar Smith||Rich McBride||Marcus Arnold||Shaun Pruitt||3||2:56|
|Chester Frazier||Jamar Smith||Rich McBride||CJ Jackson||Marcus Arnold||-2||0:10|
|Chester Frazier||Rich McBride||Calvin Brock||Shaun Pruitt||James Augustine||0||2:07|
|Jamar Smith||Calvin Brock||Brian Randle||CJ Jackson||Marcus Arnold||-1||2:57|
Illinois' Best Five Man Team: Dee Brown, Jamar Smith, Rich McBride, Shaun Pruitt, and James Augustine
Illinois' Worst Five Man Team: Dee Brown, Jamar Smith, Brian Randle, Marcus Arnold, and James Augustine
Now, again this was just the exhibition season, so these numbers do not state too much, but there are some interesting things that can be gleamed from the numbers to watch in the future. For example, Illinois' Best Five Man Team against Quincy with a +9 in 5:48 of game time, was also the Illini's worst five-man team against Illinois Wesleyan (-7 in 5:52 of game time). Also, once again Dee Brown, Jamar Smith, and James Augustine were both on each the highest and the lowest teams plus / minus wise for the second straight game.
Also interesting from these numbers are how Illinois plays without Dee Brown on the court. Common wisdom would state the Illini would not be as efficiency offensively without their best player and leader on the court. With Dee Brown out of the game, and either Chester Frazier or Jamar Smith (in the final minutes of the game) playing point guard, the Illini were +2 in 12:16 of game time, compared with the +22 the Illini were in the 28:44 of game time with Dee Brown on the court.
So, with Dee Brown on the court, the Illini were increasing their lead by 0.77 points per minute. Without Dee on the floor, the Illini were only increasing their lead by 0.16 points per minute. The good news here is that without Dee on the floor, the Illini were still increasing their lead over the course of the basketball game, but the sharp drop off is still something that will hopefully be addressed as the season progresses and Dee's backups get more comfortable running the team.
When looking at the five-man statistics there is also one other interesting statistic to look at from Wednesday evening's contest, the Illini never lost ground to Quincy while Shaun Pruitt was on the floor no matter who he was playing with as his individual +/- of 30 led the Fighting Illini on Wednesday night. The sophomore power forward was in the game for differentials of +5, +7, +2, +9, +6, +2, +5, +3, and +3 as well as four times where the Illini and Quincy played to a draw on the scoreboard.
GUARD / FORWARD COMBINATION STATISTICS
|Player 1||Player 2||Player 3||Differential||Time on Floor|
|Dee Brown||Calvin Brock||6||2:02|
|Dee Brown||Chester Frazier||Calvin Brock||2||2:23|
|Dee Brown||Chester Frazier||Rich McBride||0||1:14|
|Dee Brown||Chester Frazier||1||3:16|
|Dee Brown||Jamar Smith||Calvin Brock||4||4:15|
|Dee Brown||Jamar Smith||Rich McBride||9||5:48|
|Dee Brown||Jamar Smith||-5||3:57|
|Dee Brown||Rich McBride||5||4:09|
|Chester Frazier||Calvin Brock||2||4:06|
|Chester Frazier||Jamar Smith||Rich McBride||1||3:06|
|Chester Frazier||Jamar Smith||Calvin Brock||2||0:40|
|Chester Frazier||Rich McBride||Calvin Brock||0||2:07|
|Jamar Smith||Calvin Brock||-1||2:57|
Illinois' Best Guard Combination: Dee Brown, Jamar Smith, Rich McBride
Illinois' Worst Guard Combination: Dee Brown, Jamar Smith
OK, now this is definitely interesting, and not something I expected to see, but I continue to remind myself that the sample size is still relatively small, though I do find it interesting. Illinois' best guard combination against Quincy was Dee Brown, Jamar Smith, and Rich McBride all on the floor together, while when it was just Dee Brown and Jamar Smith, the Illini lost points to Quincy. What could be the reasons for that?
One possible reason that I can think of is when Dee and Jamar are on the court together at the same time, the Illini have a defensive liability because of Dee's height and Jamar's overall defensive ability at this point in his development. Now, this could even be drawing too much into this, especially because against Illinois Wesleyan the Illini were a +11 with just Dee and Jamar in the backcourt (making Dee and Jamar +6 on the floor over the first two exhibition games of the 2005-2006 season).
|Player 1||Player 2||Player 3||Differential||Time on Floor|
|Brian Randle||CJ Jackson||James Augustine||3||5:20|
|Brian Randle||CJ Jackson||Marcus Arnold||-3||4:58|
|Brian Randle||Marcus Arnold||James Augustine||-5||2:14|
|Brian Randle||Shaun Pruitt||James Augustine||11||6:11|
|Brian Randle||Shaun Pruitt||Marcus Arnold||2||1:44|
|CJ Jackson||James Augustine||2||2:23|
|CJ Jackson||Marcus Arnold||0||0:50|
|Marcus Arnold||James Augustine||-1||1:35|
|Shaun Pruitt||Marcus Arnold||8||6:50|
|Shaun Pruitt||James Augustine||9||7:55|
Illinois' Best Interior Combination: Brian Randle, Shaun Pruitt, and James Augustine
Illinois' Worst Interior Combination: Brian Randle, Marcus Arnold, and James Augustine
The interesting thing to note here is that the only difference in these combinations of interior players is that Marcus Arnold is replaced for Shaun Pruitt in the latter combination. Now, these do not take into account the guards playing at the time (for that information, you can look at the entire five man group statistics) since it is attempting to isolate the contributions of the interior players, but it is interesting to see that replacing Pruitt with Arnold did impact how the Illini played as a team on the court.
The play of Shaun Pruitt on Wednesday night once again stands out when you look Behind the Boxscore. When Pruitt was in the game, the Illini never lost ground to Quincy no matter who Pruitt was alongside on the interior. If Pruitt was playing with a small forward (Randle), or three guards, the Illini still improved their lead. One of the possible reasons for this is Pruitt's rebounding was solid throughout the contest, pulling down 28.51% of all rebounds available while he was on the court Wednesday evening.
INDIVIDUAL +/- STATISTICS
Illinois' Best Player: Shaun Pruitt (+30)
Illinois' Worst Player: Marcus Arnold (+1)
Once again, the play of Shaun Pruitt on Wednesday night is highlighted by the numbers. As I have stated in the two previous sections, when Shaun was on the floor, the Illini never gave up ground on their lead, in fact they improved it nine out of thirteen times.
Also of interest is the next two players with very high +/- statistics are as expected, Illinois' seniors Dee Brown (+22) and James Augustine (+19). Jamar Smith (+10) once again had an impressive showing, but it was his fellow back court mates Rich McBride (+15) and Calvin Brock (+15) who had higher individual +/- numbers for the game.
The one number here that definitely interests me is that CJ Jackson only had a +2. I thought CJ played a very good game for the Illini, especially rebounding (he pulled down 25.22% of all rebounds available while he was on the court). While I still think it would be in CJ's and probably Illinois' best interest to red shirt CJ, I would not be upset if the big man from Georgia ended up seeing playing time this season. The only thing that worries me is that he will receive about five to ten minutes a game in the preseason, and then as the games get tougher and the Illini rotation tightens up in Big Ten play, CJ will find a permanent spot on the bench (like most freshmen do). This will be a tough decision for Bruce Weber, but the one thing the exhibition season has shown is that CJ Jackson is probably even with Marcus Arnold to be Illinois' fourth big man behind James Augustine, Warren Carter, and Shaun Pruitt.
A NEW STAT: REBOUNDING RATE
In two of the previous sections of this article, I have mentioned a stat called rebounding rate. According to Basketball-Reference.com, the rebounding rate of a player is defined as:
Rebound rate is an estimate of the percentage of missed shots a player rebounded while he was on the floor.IlliniBoard.com brokedown the boxscore for the entire exhibition season and calculated the rebounding rate for the Illini big men.
Highest Rebounding Rate: Shaun Pruitt
Lowest Rebounding Rate: Marcus Arnold
Of interest here is that outside of Marcus Arnold, James Augustine has the lowest rebounding rate of any Illinois big man, including small forward Brian Randle. When you look at the two games, James only had three rebounds in twenty minutes against Wesleyan for a rebounding rate of 9.84%, while against Quincy he improved on his rebounding with six rebounds in twenty-five minutes for a rebounding rate of 15.74%. I do not expect Augustine's numbers to stay this low throughout the season, because of he has proven in his first three years that he is a very good rebounder.
The other point of interest is the lack of rebounding from Illinois State transfer, Marcus Arnold. Unfortunately, this is not too shocking as Arnold was never really a big rebounder while he was at Illinois State, outside of that one fateful game in Assembly Hall just under two years ago. So while his rebounding rate will not stay where it is (it will go up), it will not increase dramatically because Arnold just has not shown that he is a solid rebounder in the first two years of his college career.