Illini To Likely Play First Round Without Frazier

Can Illini weather the storm without their defensive stopper?

If the Illini miss Chester Frazier in the first round of the NCAA tournament, it won't be because of his offense.

The diminutive senior guard is averaging just 5.7 points per game in 2008-09 and -- if this is even possible for someone averaging a mere five points -- that number might actually exaggerate his offensive ability. Frazier is the one player opposing teams almost blatantly don't guard. His outside shot is not a pretty sight. When he drives to the hoop, he's usually looking to pass. (He's self-aware; give him that much.)

Frazier's value to the Illini is all the defensive end. Now it appears the Illini will be without him on Wednesday in their first-round NCAA match up with No. 12 seed Western Kentucky. Can the Illini weather the storm?

Fortunately for Bruce Weber's team, they have a bevy of relatively productive guards that can fill in for Frazier. Calvin Brock is a much more athletic version of Frazier, if not quite as good defensively, and he's much steadier from the outside. Jeffrey Jordan, son of Michael Jordan, has earned himself a scholarship after walking on based on his willingness to dig in defensively. He's also an underrated passer. The Illini have options.

Unfortunately, none of those options are quite as good as Frazier at creating turnovers, or at rebounding from the guard position. Frazier is the only player averaging more than a steal per game for the Illini, and the only guard averaging five rebounds-plus. That's a deficit Weber's team will have to close if they want to beat a very capable, very guard-heavy Western Kentucky squad.

Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger who thinks Chester looks much better after his haircut. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, FanHouse, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, Follow him on Twitter.

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