Unfortunately for the Illini, they will be without their point guard Tracy Abrams during the 2015-16 season. The senior Abrams was coming off an ACL injury that sidelined him last season, and right as he was preparing to take the court one last time with the Fighting Illini, he tore his achilles on Monday and will miss the entire season.
Abrams' injury is frustrating. It has to be extremely difficult to endure two season ending injuries, and for that reason, it is hard not to feel empathy for him. Abrams used last season as a redshirt year while he worked through his torn ACL. Though he will now miss his fifth year, reports say that it is possible for him to receive a medical redshirt and be granted a sixth year of eligibility.
The Fighting Illini are now in trouble. It looked as if Illinois would have a point guard problem even before Abrams got injured. After missing out on transfers Dylan Ennis and Johnny Hill and incoming freshman Marcus Lovett, it was supposed to be Abrams and Tate running the point, but now the former is out of the picture.
It looks as if Jaylon Tate is the last man standing on Illinois' roster in terms of point guards. As a junior, Tate has seen plenty of court time for the Illini, but there a number of areas in which Tate will need to improve. Jaylon Tate's shooting is far below average which is particularly concerning for the Fighting Illini. Though Tate has clearly established himself as a "pass first" point guard, his inability to shoot the ball has made him a zero threat player when spotting up to shoot.
It is difficult to say who will back up Tate, especially after the recent injury of incoming freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands. Though Coleman-Lands likely fits as a shooting guard instead of a point guard, there has been speculation as to whether or not we could see him manning the point next season. This option now seems a lot more realistic, that is, when Coleman-Lands recovers from his stress fracture and takes the floor for the first time, likely sometime in November.
There is also Mike Latulip. The former walk-on was granted a scholarship last season, and even though he isn't relied upon for serious minutes, he could be a temporary answer at the beginning of the season while Coleman-Lands gets healthy. With the luck Illinois has been having, John Groce may need to try to experiment with some of his guards to find someone to man the point. Kendrick Nunn isn't the best ball-handler, but that's something he can work on. Incoming freshman Aaron Jordan may be over-sized and unfit for the position, but you never know. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
The bottom line is that the fate of the season for the Illini is in jeopardy before it even starts. Without a reliable point guard, things could get ugly if John Groce doesn't improvise. Speaking of which, improvision is something Groce has now had to do a lot of over the last couple seasons. He will once again have to try to find a way to make it work.
The Illinois basketball program seems to be heading in the wrong direction, and if the Illini were to miss the NCAA Tournament for a third consecutive season, it could really mean trouble. Guys will have to step up and give it their all to make up for this loss. Though it's uncertain how the Illini will bounce back from this unfortunate news, it could have a serious impact on not only the present season, but the direction of the program.