I've stated before on this blog that this year's Illinois basketball team needs sophomore point guard Demetri McCamey to be its best player. The past two games have been a perfect illustration.
Take, for example, Tuesday's 76-74 loss to Clemson. The Illini bungled the final 10 seconds of the game hopelessly, and it was McCamey's fault.
Down two, the Illini had a great opportunity to tie or win on their last possession. Instead, McCamey lolligagged the ball up the court, dribbled off precious seconds, missed a wide-open Trent Meacham on the left wing and passed a grenade to Chester Frazier, who failed to get a shot off before time expired.
A play for Meacham was signaled in from the bench. Meacham came off a screen open, poised to shoot a potential game-winning three. McCamey was in la-la land and never got him the ball. Illinois loses.
Fast forward to Saturday, when Illinois obliterated Georgia 76-42. McCamey was far and away the best player on the floor. There wasn't a close second.
He scored 13 points right off the bat, pacing Illinois to an early 21-8 lead it would never relinquish. He finished the game with 19 points and six assists. No Georgia guard could handle him man-to-man, which forced the Bulldogs to use a 1-3-1 zone for most of the game.
Even with Georgia in a zone, McCamey did a good job of attacking the gaps, breaking down the defense and creating opportunities for others. The two sophomore Illini bigs, Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale, both made seven of the 10 shots they took. Many of them were easy baskets, with Georgia overly concerned about McCamey.
The Illini are going to go as McCamey goes all year. It's a bit of a frightening proposition for coach Bruce Weber, who has rightfully griped about a lack of consistency from McCamey for over a year now.
Hopefully, this young point guard can start bringing his 'A' game close to every night. If he does, the Illini might be a surprise entrant into the NCAA tournament this year. If not, they'll be hearing chants of "N-I-T!" in February.