Illini Basketball 2020-2021

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#76
Last season, Feliz was the "glue" guy...nothing profound there. But who will be that guy who can get the tough hoops when everyone is looking at the other guy cause no one can get it into the net? Who will be the glue guy who can grab the ball when 6 others are leaping/scrapping/digging for it? Who will get a steal when down 3 in the final minute? Who the heck will be the "GLUE" GUY? If we had Feliz, we would all know. But we don't. Gotta be a "glue" guy to win it all and that roster spot, and his minutes, is vacant. We all hope someone claims it.
In the long term that guy would be Curbelo, not sure next year but my guess would be DaMonte.
Think a lot of people are underestimating Giorgi’s contribution next year as they did his frosh year. Still remembering an interview where the opposing coach was discussing how tough it was to defend against that size. If Kofi can make the 15-20 footer it opens up the driving lane as well as space for Giorgi to work inside. Four position unknown but may be a strength not a weakness with the right color glasses.
 
       
#77
Edit/P.S.: if one of BBV or Hawkins can deliver on the hype, I truly don't see a positional weakness. It is absolutely crazy how far Underwood has taken this team in 3 short years.
I mentioned this in the main 20-21 thread, but it's relevant here. Look at Kansas last year. Toward the end of the year they weren't starting more than one guy over 6'5, and that's the consensus #1 overall team. Conclusion: in today's game you don't need a traditional PF if you have a dominant big like Azubuike or Kofi. Also, this team is built like a championship roster.
 
       
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#78
I'm hopeful that our mix of shooters, slashers, and distributors will help ease the issues that might arise with so much talent. We've also seen Ayo be content to let others shine for the first 35 minutes before taking over for the last 5. We have a lot of talent in the backcourt but luckily not as much overlapping skill sets as one might think on first glance. My guess is we'll see a lot more of D Will at the 4 to clear up some room for everybody else.

Edit/P.S.: if one of BBV or Hawkins can deliver on the hype, I truly don't see a positional weakness. It is absolutely crazy how far Underwood has taken this team in 3 short years.
Thinking of the lineup possibilities will drive us crazy. I expect Giorgi starting at the 4 and being a backup 5, that doesn't leave many minutes for Hawkins, BBV and Grandison. Then if dwill starts time at the 4, where will that leave Giorgi? Coming off the bench as a 5? Great problems to have.
 
       
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#79
I believe the cbssports rankings article I read earlier had MSU ranked above us assuming Tillman came back, and before Kofi announced (though I think assumed back as well) I think we should leap them now.
MSU falls to #11 and we move up to #6. Illini move up 1 spot.

Sincerely,
Booger McFarland
 
       
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#80
Chicago, IL
The similarities between last year's Kansas team (consensus #1) and this year's Illinois team are uncanny. Maybe not quite as talented but very close.
  • Potential All-American guard choosing to return over NBA
  • Big dominant interior center
  • 1-in 4-out around aforementioned big (sort of a proof of concept that you don't always need a traditional PF on the floor & trend we've seen recently)
  • Tons of guard depth
  • Also found it interesting that they started the year experimenting with how to play Azubuike & McCormack together, whose games are very similar to Kofi & Giorgi respectively. They figured it out by starting McCormack on the bench and platooning them. Obviously had a lot of success with it.

Rough attempt at a projected minutes breakdown for a 10 man rotation:

Ayo Dosunmu 30
Trent Frazier 27
Andre Curbelo 21
Adam Miller 24
Jacob Grandison 12
Hawkins/BBV 5
Giorgi Bezhanishvili 22
Da'Monte Williams 21
Austin Hutcherson 10
Kofi Cockburn 28

For comparison, the 2019-20 stats: https://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/team/stats/_/id/356/illinois-fighting-illini

A few assumptions:
- rotation will expand from 8 to 10 to accommodate depth
- to make it work, Ayo and Trent would need to shave about 3 mpg off of their 30+ mpg from last year or reduce guard/overall rotation (likely at expense of Hutcherson)
- DMW and Grandison play most of the time at the 4, with one of BBV/Hawkins/Giorgi at the 4 when countering teams with size. One of BBV or Hawkins plays spot minutes and the other does not receive consistent minutes
- Kofi and Giorgi rotate at 5, with Hamlin not seeing minutes on a consistent basis and Lieb on RS
 
       
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#81
We've all seen depth charts and some time estimates but with the return of AD and KC and talk about potential unhappiness among the ranks because there isn't enough time to go around, I wanted to see if we could cut it another way, by core rotation vs. situational vs. development. Does it clear-up any of the haziness for the future? Who knows...

Core 8 person rotation:
Ayo (will definitely leave after the year)
Trent (graduate)
Kofi (likely to leave after the year)
Giorgi
Damonte (graduate)
Curbelo
Wolf
Hutcherson or Grandison (I am hoping both will find their role and be significant contributors, but likely not enough minutes to go around)

Situational/Match-up/Foul Trouble rotation:
Hutcherson or Grandison (if one plays a smaller role than anticipated, hopefully they can see long term and see a future 2022)
BBV (I don't know if he makes it into the rotation. Didn't see enough of him or know much about his development, but I'm interested in his development)
Hamlin (I think he'll be ok with his role and hopefully another year of going against Kofi and playing some good minutes will continue his development)

Development (may get minutes here and there, but won't play significant role or truly take minutes away):
Hawkins (Controversial. I think many on this forum are huge fans and see him truly playing a role. But I still don't see it. I can maybe see him move up into the situational section, but in my fan only prediction, I see him more or less riding the bench, learning, redshirting this year would be best for his development vs. shoving him out there right away to play and expect true production)
Lieb
Underwood (please let this be the case. I know BU
Walk-ons

Too early to predict top likely defectors are:
Hutcherson or Grandison (grad transfer w/ immediate eligibility)
BBV (If he develops to what we need, then I see him staying. Also depends on who we end up recruiting.)
Hamlin (might want more playing time and depends upon who we end up recruiting to fill Kofi's vacated spot)
 
       
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#82
Last season, Feliz was the "glue" guy...nothing profound there. But who will be that guy who can get the tough hoops when everyone is looking at the other guy cause no one can get it into the net? Who will be the glue guy who can grab the ball when 6 others are leaping/scrapping/digging for it? Who will get a steal when down 3 in the final minute? Who the heck will be the "GLUE" GUY? If we had Feliz, we would all know. But we don't. Gotta be a "glue" guy to win it all and that roster spot, and his minutes, is vacant. We all hope someone claims it.

I don't know about all the other questions, but I'm hoping we just aren't down 3 in the final minute very often with this team. I know we got a lot of last minute closers from Ayo last season and they were awesome but I'm hoping we can build on a lead this season and keep our foot on their throats all the way to the finish.
 
       
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#83
We've all seen depth charts and some time estimates but with the return of AD and KC and talk about potential unhappiness among the ranks because there isn't enough time to go around, I wanted to see if we could cut it another way, by core rotation vs. situational vs. development. Does it clear-up any of the haziness for the future? Who knows...

Core 8 person rotation:
Ayo (will definitely leave after the year)
Trent (graduate)
Kofi (likely to leave after the year)
Giorgi
Damonte (graduate)
Curbelo
Wolf
Hutcherson or Grandison (I am hoping both will find their role and be significant contributors, but likely not enough minutes to go around)

Situational/Match-up/Foul Trouble rotation:
Hutcherson or Grandison (if one plays a smaller role than anticipated, hopefully they can see long term and see a future 2022)
BBV (I don't know if he makes it into the rotation. Didn't see enough of him or know much about his development, but I'm interested in his development)
Hamlin (I think he'll be ok with his role and hopefully another year of going against Kofi and playing some good minutes will continue his development)

Development (may get minutes here and there, but won't play significant role or truly take minutes away):
Hawkins (Controversial. I think many on this forum are huge fans and see him truly playing a role. But I still don't see it. I can maybe see him move up into the situational section, but in my fan only prediction, I see him more or less riding the bench, learning, redshirting this year would be best for his development vs. shoving him out there right away to play and expect true production)
Lieb
Underwood (please let this be the case. I know BU
Walk-ons

Too early to predict top likely defectors are:
Hutcherson or Grandison (grad transfer w/ immediate eligibility)
BBV (If he develops to what we need, then I see him staying. Also depends on who we end up recruiting.)
Hamlin (might want more playing time and depends upon who we end up recruiting to fill Kofi's vacated spot)

I think you have a 9 person regular rotation with both Hutchinson and Grandison and that all get at least double figure minutes. Wood played 10 guys double figure minutes at OSU.
 
       
#85
The A
If Giorgi plays like last year no way he's getting 22 min on this squad.
 
       
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#86
If Underwood can get this team to put away inferior teams early then it will help a lot with the minutes distribution, imo.

There will be games where they only play 7 deep when every possession matters in a close game. Other games the starters may only play 20 minutes and leave with a 30 point lead while the backend of the bench gets some decent minutes.

These Underwood teams have struggled in the first half. I think that’s going to be the big challenge this year. Can they come out strong despite the struggles with COVID, and managing the inevitable personal expectations of some players.
 
       
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#87
The Illini rose 20 spots in Gary Parrish’s CBSSports.com 25 And 1 rankings, all the way up to No. 7, behind only Michigan State (No. 4) and Iowa (No. 6) in the Big Ten. Other Big Ten teams on Parrish’s list included 11 Wisconsin, 17 Ohio State, 21 Rutgers and 23 Indiana.

7 Big 10 teams in the one Top 25 preseason poll, brutal as usual.
 
       
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#88
The Illini rose 20 spots in Gary Parrish’s CBSSports.com 25 And 1 rankings, all the way up to No. 7, behind only Michigan State (No. 4) and Iowa (No. 6) in the Big Ten. Other Big Ten teams on Parrish’s list included 11 Wisconsin, 17 Ohio State, 21 Rutgers and 23 Indiana.

7 Big 10 teams in the one Top 25 preseason poll, brutal as usual.
That's the way Big Ten basketball is supposed to be but promises to be quite the challenge. Hoping the great defensive players Illinois has like Frazier, Ayo, Kofi and Williams makes up for the skilled shooters Iowa has.
 
       
#89
Admin
Underwood: I was very, very hands off in this process as I have always been. I gave (Ayo & Kofi) their space to handle their deal. You involve family.. You try to make the best educated decision that you can make.

Underwood: We said many times when we came to Illinois that we were going to recruit pros... Both of those young men are going to play in that league.

Underwood: We’re excited. It was fun to see our fans get so excited and deservedly so.

Underwood: We’re going to bring back what I think is the best guard in the country.

Underwood: There were challenges for us as a coaching staff. We were never going to fill their scholarships. We wanted to make sure as long as they were an amateur athlete & committed to us, we were going to be committed to them.

Underwood: If we would have had an NCAA tournament and a normal process, I would have been the first to tell (Ayo) to go.

Underwood on Ayo’s national title hopes: Knowing how hard Ayo works, who am I to disagree with that. He knows what he has around him.

Underwood: There is a difference between being the hunter & being the hunted. You’ve got to stay hungry. You’ve got to stay challenged.

Underwood: I’d like to play a little faster than we did last year. We had an unusually tough year shooting the ball last year. I think that will be behind us, so I’d like to play faster.

Underwood: I’m really excited about Jacob Grandison and what he brings at (the four).

Underwood: When you take over a job, you dream of getting to this point where an NBA guy like Ayo comes back.

Underwood: I think we could see a year where a positive test or two happens and it’s the team that has depth wins.

Underwood: I think we’ll see a major jump from Ayo with his shooting beyond the three-point line. I think we’ll see a much more consistent Kofi.

https://twitter.com/DPiper247

 
       
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#90
I'm diggin the exuberance on the board. It's warranted. So I'm drinking the orange Kool-Aid and allowing myself delusions of grandeur I haven't had for 15 years.

So this is a serious question, where's the "break point" between satisfaction and disappointment for everybody? Obviously the most realistic heartbreak is NO SEASON. Followed closely by the nut punch we had in March... no tourney. Assuming we have a season and march madness, we gotta be a lock assuming - Ayo and Kofi don't both go down for the season in an exhibition game. So where's the break point for everybody?

first round loss
second round loss
sweet sixteen
elite eight
final four
title game loss

I think I would be satisfied with a sweet 16 and a hard fought loss to a title contender. Say we're a four seed - entirely possible. If we lose to a one seed in the sweet 16 would you say you're disappointed in the season?
 
       
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#91
The Illini rose 20 spots in Gary Parrish’s CBSSports.com 25 And 1 rankings, all the way up to No. 7, behind only Michigan State (No. 4) and Iowa (No. 6) in the Big Ten. Other Big Ten teams on Parrish’s list included 11 Wisconsin, 17 Ohio State, 21 Rutgers and 23 Indiana.

7 Big 10 teams in the one Top 25 preseason poll, brutal as usual.
MSU is now 11th and Illini are 6th after Xavier Tillman announced he’s staying in the draft
 
       
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#93
I'm diggin the exuberance on the board. It's warranted. So I'm drinking the orange Kool-Aid and allowing myself delusions of grandeur I haven't had for 15 years.

So this is a serious question, where's the "break point" between satisfaction and disappointment for everybody? Obviously the most realistic heartbreak is NO SEASON. Followed closely by the nut punch we had in March... no tourney. Assuming we have a season and march madness, we gotta be a lock assuming - Ayo and Kofi don't both go down for the season in an exhibition game. So where's the break point for everybody?

first round loss
second round loss
sweet sixteen
elite eight
final four
title game loss

I think I would be satisfied with a sweet 16 and a hard fought loss to a title contender. Say we're a four seed - entirely possible. If we lose to a one seed in the sweet 16 would you say you're disappointed in the season?

I'd be okay with any loss in the NCAA tournament as long as the guys play to their potential as demonstrated by the 15 or so previous games leading up to the Tournament. If they have a complete mental collapse or are not meeting the expectations they set leading up to the tournament then I will be disappointed. I think they have the potential to set that bar really high to where an Elite 8 may be the cutoff to feel like they're meeting expectations. At the end of the day, it's a single elimination tournament and anything can happen.
 
       
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#94
St. Peters MO
As always, it's not so much about who starts but who is on the floor at the end.
 
       
#96
Last season, Feliz was the "glue" guy...nothing profound there. But who will be that guy who can get the tough hoops when everyone is looking at the other guy cause no one can get it into the net? Who will be the glue guy who can grab the ball when 6 others are leaping/scrapping/digging for it? Who will get a steal when down 3 in the final minute? Who the heck will be the "GLUE" GUY? If we had Feliz, we would all know. But we don't. Gotta be a "glue" guy to win it all and that roster spot, and his minutes, is vacant. We all hope someone claims it.
DMFW
 
       
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#97
Chevy Chase, Maryland
I'd be okay with any loss in the NCAA tournament as long as the guys play to their potential as demonstrated by the 15 or so previous games leading up to the Tournament. If they have a complete mental collapse or are not meeting the expectations they set leading up to the tournament then I will be disappointed. I think they have the potential to set that bar really high to where an Elite 8 may be the cutoff to feel like they're meeting expectations. At the end of the day, it's a single elimination tournament and anything can happen.
This.

I have a close friend who played D-1 ball in the ACC long ago. He's ~70 and has seen a lot of hoops at all levels in his time. He notes regularly to me how incredibly difficult it is to win an NC. So much has to fall into place.

I recall the great Illini teams in the '80s --- and they were great year after year --- you get that travesty at Kentucky in '84, or a heartbreaker to Alabama in '86, or an Austin Peay in '87, or Villanova in '88, or a Dayton in '90. The margin of losses in those five games: 3,2,1,3,2 pts. Or you just hit a better team like GT in '85 and lose by 8 even though you were BT runner-up in sole possession of 2nd place to a crazy-talented Michigan team that went 16-2, got a one seed, and lost in the second round to an eight seed (that, by the way, went on to win the NC in one of the biggest upsets in history. NO ONE had Villanova over G'town in '85.)

It happens. That's what made '89 so special to those of us who were there, and also '05. Because you saw how good our teams were in adjoining seasons, and you learned that the tourney is just tailored to break your heart. So when it comes together it is truly magical.

I'm good with our team playing hard and leaving it on the floor the way they did last season game after game. Though they were young and struggling, that kind of heart is special and it took them to a special place. If we show that heart, and take it into March, I'm at peace wherever the boys end up.

Man, I love this feeling that we're back. It has been a long, long time.
 
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#98
This.

I have a close friend who played D-1 ball in the ACC long ago. He's ~70 and has seen a lot of hoops at all levels in his time. He notes regularly to me how incredibly difficult it is to win an NC. So much has to fall into place.

I recall the great Illini teams in the '80s --- and they were great year after year --- you get that travesty at Kentucky in '84, or a heartbreaker to Alabama in '86, or an Austin Peay in '87, or Villanova in '88, or a Dayton in '90. The margin of losses in those five games: 3,2,1,3,2 pts. Or you just hit a better team like GT in '85 and lose by 8 even though you were BT runner-up in sole possession of 2nd place to a crazy-talented Michigan team that went 16-2, got a one seed, and lost in the second round to an eight seed (that, by the way, went on to win the NC in one of the biggest upsets in history. NO ONE had Villanova over G'town in '85.)

It happens. That's what made '89 so special to those of us who were there, and also '05. Because you saw how good our teams were in adjoining seasons, and you learned that the tourney is just tailored to break your heart. So when it comes together it is truly magical.

I'm good with our team playing hard and leaving it on the floor the way they did last season game after game. Though they were young and struggling, that kind of heart is special and it took them to a special place. If we show that heart, and take it into March, I'm at peace wherever the boys end up.

Man, I love this feeling that we're back. It has been a long, long time.

Yeah "it happens," but it seems like it never happens for us, only against us. Everybody else can occasionally catch lightning in a bottle. We have to be the best team in the country to get to the final four. In some odd way, this seems like the year when ability and destiny will finally align for the Illini.

Have said that, to answer a question above, my definition of success is winning the big 10. I'd like to say also to restore the home court advantage that we have had, but we need a crowd for that, and that might be too much to ask.
 
       
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#99
The A
I can't decide which of the three frosh I'm most excited about. Really like the comments from BU about Hawkins.
 
       
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Any chance we get Cuse’ in the challenge?
 
       
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