Illinois Basketball: Illini Non-Conference Predictions

Illinois Basketball

Oct 13, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach John Groce speaks with the media during Big Ten media day at the Marriott Washington Wardman Park. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Illinois basketball team is poised to have a great season.

Here are the non-conference predictions for the 2016-17 campaign.

Southeast Missouri State (W 89-55)

The first game of the season is at home against Southeast Missouri State.  This should be an easy win, all things considered.

The Illini will have a healthy team that is only missing Leron Black due to a four-game suspension to start the season.

Southeast Missouri State is coming off a 5-24 record last season and this season won’t be much better.  They weren’t competitive against many teams that year either.

I expect Illinois to come into this game and take a big lead from the beginning.  This needs to be the start of something special for the Illini.

I look for the Illini to win this game 89-55.

Northern Kentucky (W 81-71)

The next game for Illinois is another home game, this time against Northern Kentucky.  The Norse weren’t much better than the Redhawks last season, so I don’t expect a different result.

Northern Kentucky finished the 2015-16 campaign with a 9-21 overall record.  This included losing their last 7 games of the season.

The main focus for the Illini in this game is to use their size to win.  They need to continue feeding the big men like Mike Thorne Jr. and Michael Finke.

If Illinois can continually feed their centers then I think they will win this game easily.  The tallest player for Northern Kentucky is 6-foot-7.

The Illini come away with a win in this game 81-71.

Mar 11, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Malcolm Hill (21) makes a pass against Purdue Boilermakers guard Dakota Mathias (31) and forward Vince Edwards (12) during the Big Ten Conference tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

McKendree (W 92-66)

McKendree is the next team on the slate for the Illini.  This should be another easy win considering the team was 13-14 last season in Division II.

The main player the Illini have to watch out for is senior forward David Franklin.

Franklin is 6-foot-5, 215-pounds, from O’Fallon, Illinois.  He led the team last season in scoring with 21.7 points per game.  He also shot 30-percent from three-point range and 51-percent inside the arc.

McKendree is also returning most of their scoring from last season as well.

As long as Illinois continues to play crisp basketball this game shouldn’t be a problem.  McKendree isn’t deep and they are a league below the Illini.

I see Illinois coming out with a win, 92-66.

Detroit (W 78-66)

This is where Illinois enters their tougher competition.  The first game is against Detroit.

Detroit was another team that didn’t do so hot last season.   They finished with a 16-15 overall record and were only 4-10 on the road.  This game is played at Illinois.

This shouldn’t be a difficult game for the Illini, though.

The Titans lost their top two leading scorers last season that averaged 18.4 and 14.3 points per game.  This is a huge hole they will be missing.

Detroit’s next leading scorer is Chris Jenkins.  He averaged 12 PPG and shot an amazing 43-percent from behind the three-point line.

The Titans did add two new big men this season that are 6-foot-11 and 7-foot tall.  This could cause problems for Illinois if they both play at the same time.

But, I think Illinois shouldn’t have a problem beating Detroit.  They have the better shooters and more athletic players.

I see the Illini winning 78-66.

Mar 11, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Jalen Coleman-Lands (5) is guarded by Purdue Boilermakers guard P.J. Thompson (3) during the Big Ten Conference tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Winthrop (W 75-66)

After the Illini get through the first four games of the season a few things happen.

The first thing is the Illini get back Leron Black.  He is going to be a big piece to the NCAA Tournament puzzle for Illinois.

The other thing is the Illini schedule starts to get a lot tougher.

Illinois takes on Winthrop in the next game.  This is not going to be an easy matchup despite the leagues the teams both play in.

Last season, the Eagles finished with a 23-9 record that included playing some major power five conference programs tough.

But, from that good team last season, Winthrop is losing leading scorer and assister Jimmy Gavin who averaged 18.7 PPG and 3 APG.

This is a lot for Winthrop to lose and to still expect to compete with the bigger programs.  They also don’t have the height with their tallest player being 6-foot-8.

Illinois will have a tough game on their hands but I think they come out with a 75-66 victory.

West Virginia (W 68-63)

The West Virginia Mountaineers will be the toughest test Illinois faces in the non-conference.  This team was a top 10 program all of last season.

But, I am betting this season looks a lot different for West Virginia.

The Mountaineers are losing their top two leading scorers from last season who averaged 13.7 PPG and 13.3 PPG.

And one of those leading scorers was also their leading rebounder who averaged 9.5 RPG as well.

That is a lot of production to lose and to still expect to be a top 25 team this season.  I think this will help the Illini tremendously in this game.

West Virginia does have a few wild card players in Maciej Bender and Logan Routt who are 6-foot-10 and 6-foot-11, respectively.

Besides for these two players, the Mountaineers are undersized and I think the Illini will prey on that fact.

This game is going to be a close one, but I think Illinois comes out with a win, 68-63.

Mar 10, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Malcolm Hill (21) celebrates with center Maverick Morgan (22) and forward Michael Finke (43) after defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes during the Big Ten Conference tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Illinois defeats Iowa 68-66. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State (L 79-74)

The next game for the Illini finishes off the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament.  This game will either be against Florida State or Temple.

I think Illinois will win the previous game so they will play the winner of Florida State and Temple.  I think the Seminoles beat the Owls and advance on to play the Illini.

This is going to be one of the best games you will watch all season.  Illinois is matched up against an experienced team in Florida State.

The Seminoles return leading scorer Dwayne Bacon who averaged 15.8 PPG and 5.8 RPG last season.  That is huge for this team moving forward.

Xavier Rathan-Mayes is also back.  He averaged 11.8 PPG and 4.4 APG last season.

Illinois has their hands full with this Florida State team that went 20-14 last season and they are loaded up again.

Despite a great run for the Illini, I think they fall in this game 79-74.

North Carolina State (W 81-69)

Just four days later, the Illini welcome in the North Carolina State Wolfpack for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Last season, the Wolfpack finished with a 16-17 overall record.  They were competitive in a lot of games, though.

That team that finished under .500 last season is back again, but this time without their leading scorer Anthony Barber.  He averaged 23.5 PPG and 4.6 RPG last season.

Losing Barber is going to kill this team because he did so much.  But, North Carolina State still has some good players returning like Abdul-Malik Abu who averaged 12.9 PPG and 8.8 RPG last season.

Despite having a solid returning core, the Wolfpack fall to the Illini 81-69.

Mar 9, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers center Bakary Konate (21) guards Illinois Fighting Illini forward Michael Finke (43) during the Big Ten Conference tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Illinois defeats Minnesota 85-52. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

VCU (W 79-67)

Illinois then heads down to Miami, Florida to play the VCU Rams in the Hoophall Miami Invitational.

This is a huge game considering the Rams were 25-11 last season and advanced to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament.

VCU might not be the same team as last year, though.  They lost leading scorer Melvin Johnson who averaged 17.4 PPG.  That is a lot of production to replace.

They also lost their third-leading scorer and one of their top three rebounders in Kory Billbury.

Billbury averaged 11.2 PPG and 4.9 RPG last season.  Those are nice stats for a starter and will be extremely hard to replace.

VCU does have a decent amount of talent still left, though.

Leading assister and second leading scorer, JeQuan Lewis, returns.  He averaged 11.3 PPG and 5 APG last season.

The Rams have enough firepower to keep this game close, but I don’t think they are deep enough.

Illinois and VCU are close heading into the second half, but the Illini end up pulling away at the end, 79-67.

IUPUI (W 88-62)

The following game is a nice breather for the Illini as they take on the IUPUI Jaguars at the State Farm Center.

This game should be a nice and easy contest with Illinois eventually winning by a lot.

IUPUI finished last season with a record of 13-19 overall and 4-15 on the road.  This bodes well for the Illini since they are playing in Champaign.

Although, the Cougars do return leading scorer Darell Combs this season.  He averaged 16.3 PPG last year.

In true Illinois fashion, this game will be close in the first 15 minutes of the first half.  But, to end the half and in the second half the Illini will take control and win easily 88-62.

Mar 9, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini coach John Groce coaches on the sidelines in a game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the Big Ten Conference tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Central Michigan (W 73-51)

Another average team from last season is the Central Michigan Chippewas.  They were 17-16 overall with an away record of 4-8.

This game will be played at the State Farm Center, so that gives an advantage to the Illini.

Illinois also has another advantage.  They won’t be playing against Central Michigan’s leading scorer from last season.

Chris Fowler led the Chippewas in scoring last season with 16.5 PPG and he also added in 5.8 APG and 4 RPG.  He was an all-around player that they will be missing.

Central Michigan does return the second leading scorer in Braylon Rayson, though.  He averaged 16.3 PPG last season.

This Central Michigan team wasn’t good last season and they lost their best player.  I see Illinois winning easily, 73-51.

BYU (W 77-71)

Illinois is in for another tough test as the come down the homestretch of the non-conference schedule.  Their second to last game is against the BYU Cougars.

BYU had a great season last year.  They finished 26-11 and made the NIT Championship Game.  That is an impressive feat considering the field.

This game will be held in Chicago for the State Farm Chicago Legends Series.  That is an advantage for the Illini.

Another big advantage the Illini have is the fact BYU isn’t returning two of their top three leading scorers.

Chase Fischer lead the Cougars last season with 18.2 PPG and Kyle Collinsworth was third on the team with 15.3 PPG.  He also led the team in rebounds with 8.2 RPG.

That is a lot for BYU to replace and I don’t think they will be able to.  Illinois will take advantage of the missing players and will win this game in 77-71.

Missouri (W 78-59)

The final game of the non-conference slate is the annual Braggin’ Rights game.  This seems to be a great game year in and year out no matter the records.

Missouri was a bad team last season and finished the year 10-21.  Despite how bad they were, the Braggin’ Rights game last season was only a 68-63 loss to the Illini.

From that bad Tigers team, they are losing their leading scorer Kevin Puryear.  He averaged 11.5 PPG and 4.6 RPG.

That hurts Missouri because they will need all the firepower they can get.

I think this Braggin’ Rights game will be close to start because of the adrenalin.  But, because Illinois has more talent and is deeper, they come out in the second half and pull away 78-59.

This article originally appeared on