Feb 21, 2013; Champaign, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach John Groce reacts during the second half against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Assembly Hall. Illinois defeated Penn State 64-59. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

Roundtable: How Much Will The Darius Paul Suspension Hurt The Illini In 2014?

In this edition of the Writing Illini roundtable, the staff takes a look at the suspension of Illinois power forward Darius Paul. The staff begs to ask the question: how much will the Darius Paul suspension hurt the Illinois Fighting Illini in 2014-15?

Ricky: The Darius Paul suspension could end up hurting the Illini, but it doesn’t necessary have to.

Right after the 2013-14 season, I thought Paul would definitely be a starter at PF for Illinois. Now, that starting PF changes to freshman Leron Black. Coach Groce can use both Black and Michael Finke at the PF position. Because of this, the Illini should be fine without Paul for a season.

However, that answer could change if Black and Finke flop in 2014, but I don’t see that happening.

Ryan: The Darius Paul suspension will certainly hurt the Illini from a depth standpoint up front, at least on the surface. On one hand, Leron Black seems like the most likely option to fill minutes at the power forward spot, but make no mistake, there will be a learning curve as he transitions to the college game. On the other hand, there still remains a possibility that John Groce could backfill his roster spot with a 5th year transfer, but there doesn’t seem to be anything imminent on the horizon at this time.

Until that day comes, however, there is a hole regarding backup minutes in the post that must be filled, and that hole leaves both the Illini and Nnanna Egwu exposed to potential trouble against teams with a strong front court.

Austin: The suspension may hurt at first, but I truly feel like Paul was a bit of a wild card.  He was not really going to be a starter this year, despite what some say. His presence off the bench will be missed for sure, but that will be the biggest aspect. Another positive is that this was done in May, not October, so there won’t be a surprise of a bench guy missing right before the season. Coach Groce will adjust where needed, and all will be okay.

I would love to see Paul back in orange and blue next season, but I am more concerned about him as an individual before a basketball player. Get well, Darius

The Writing Illini staff includes lead editor Ricky Widmer, co-editor Ryan Kraemer, and staff writer, Austin Jabs.

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Tags: Basketball Darius Paul Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Jon G

    Paul was never expected to get big minutes. He was a non-recruit out of high school who scored inefficiently at a mid major school. 52 TS% with 2.1 turnovers per 25mpg, with fewer than half a steal or block per game … that’s not a Big Ten starter resume.

    The Illini have two more highly touted prospects in Morgan and Colbert who’ve already used a year of eligibility, and so if a sophomore big was going to get a starting job I’d think one of those two would’ve had the edge.

    But I think going smallball is a legitimate option that will take up most of the minutes. Starks-Cosby-Nunn-Rice-Egwu won’t work against every team (Hill can be worked in to add a bit more size), but that’s three great 3pt shooters, a very good slasher, and one of the biggest players in the Big 10 all on the floor. For a team that’s had offensive issues that should be a big step up.

    • @RPKraemer

      I think it’s far more probable that Paul could have earned starters minutes at the 4 than either Colbert or Morgan, but that doesn’t mean that’s what would have happened. Black is going to be the guy when he catches up to the pace of the college game, but as you said, going the small route is a very real option.

      What Paul’s loss really amounts to is a loss in depth when they match up against a larger team, and if Egwu has repeated foul troubles having that big body would have been a nice piece to slide in there if only to protect Nnanna.

      Anyway, thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing your thoughts!