Illinois at a glance
Eds: With BC-BKC--Illinois Preview
By The Associated Press=
Last season: 19-14, lost in first round of the National Invitation Tournament.
Nickname: Fighting Illini.
Coach: John Groce.
Conference: Big Ten.
Key returners: Junior guard Malcolm Hill, leading scorer among returning players at 14.4 points a game and the key team leader; junior guard Kendrick Nunn, tapped for a leadership role alongside Hill but out until late November after surgery on left thumb; sophomore forward Leron Black, key rebounder and physical presence, but out until sometime in November after surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
Who left: Leading scorer and rebounder Rayvonte Rice, hometown star averaged 16.5 points and 6.5 boards a game; center Nnanna Egwu, prized for sometimes-overlooked defensive ability; guard Ahmad Starks, shooter who was forced to handle part of the load at point guard with Tracy Abrams missing the season to injury.
The Skinny: Illinois opens with three starters out - Nunn, Black and Abrams, who will miss his second-straight season to injury. Fans are restless after two consecutive seasons without a trip to the NCAA Tournament.