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Wednesday, Nov. 3

Illinois named men's basketball preseason favorite
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Williams becomes fifth straight Illini named Preseason Player of the Year

[NOV. 3, 2004]  PARK RIDGE -- Defending conference champion Illinois has been selected as the preseason Big Ten favorite for the 2004-05 men's basketball season, as voted upon by members of the media attending the recent Big Ten Men's Basketball Media Day. Michigan State and Wisconsin, which finished tied for second place in last year's league standings, are ranked second and third, respectively. Illinois' Deron Williams was tabbed Preseason Player of the Year.

The Illini return all five of their starters for the first time since the 2000-01 season. Illinois boasted a 26-7 overall record in 2003-04, while claiming its first outright conference title in 52 seasons, with a record of 13-3. Under first-year head coach Bruce Weber, the Illini also advanced to the NCAA regional semifinals, marking the program's third Sweet 16 appearance in the past four years.

With the return of all five starters, Michigan State follows Illinois in the preseason poll with a second-place showing. In 2003-04, the Spartans posted their seventh straight season of 10 or more wins in conference play, finishing with a record of 12-4 to tie for second place in the Big Ten standings. MSU wrapped up the 2003-04 season advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the seventh consecutive year under head coach Tom Izzo.

The Wisconsin Badgers, guided by fourth-year head coach Bo Ryan, have been picked at the No. 3 preseason slot. The Badgers produced a record of 12-4 in the Big Ten last season to place second, ending the school's hopes for a third straight conference title. Wisconsin bounced back by winning its first Big Ten Tournament crown and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year. The Badgers return seven letter winners from last year's squad, including three of the team's top five scorers.

Illinois' Williams was tabbed Preseason Player of the Year after leading the league in assists (6.17 pg) for the second straight season. He is just the third Big Ten player ever to lead the conference in assists in each of his first two seasons, joining an elite list that includes Michigan State's Magic Johnson (1978-79) and Illinois' Bruce Douglas (1983-84). Williams also finished among the league's top 10 in scoring (14.0 pg), 3-point field goal percentage (.394) and 3-point field goals made (2.54 pg) last season while earning first-team all-Big Ten honors.

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With Williams honored this year, it marks the fifth consecutive season that Illinois has claimed at least a share of Preseason Player of the Year honors. Current teammate Dee Brown was honored last year, preceded by Brian Cook in 2002, Frank Williams in 2001 and Cory Bradford in 2000.

Joining Williams on the Big Ten Preseason All-Conference team are Brown, Indiana's Bracey Wright, Michigan State's Paul Davis and Wisconsin's Mike Wilkinson. Davis joins Williams as the only first-team returnees from last season, while Brown, Wright and Wilkinson were named to the second team. Brown, Wilkinson and Williams also claimed 2004 All-Big Ten Tournament honors.

2004-05 Big Ten top three preseason picks
(Team, 2003-04 final records)

1. Illinois, 26-7, 13-3 Big Ten (first)

2. Michigan State, 18-12, 12-4 Big Ten (tied for second)

3. Wisconsin, 25-7, 12-4 Big Ten (tied for second)

2004-05 Big Ten Preseason All-Conference Team
(Player, 2003-04 final stats)

  • Dee Brown, Illinois, junior, G, 13.3 ppg, 4.45 apg, 1.55 spg, 2.26 A/TO ratio
  • Paul Davis, Michigan State, junior, C, 15.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg, .568 FG pct.
  • Mike Wilkinson, Wisconsin, sophomore, F, 13.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.62 spg, 1.28 bpg
  • Deron Williams, Illinois, junior, G, 14.0 ppg, 6.17 apg, 1.03 spg, 2.47 A/TO ratio
  • Bracey Wright, Indiana, junior, G, 18.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.4 apg

2004-05 Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year

Deron Williams, Illinois

[Big Ten Conference news release]

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