With the dust mostly settled on rosters for the 2023-24 season, we’re going team-by-team in the Big Ten to assess where everyone stands and how things could shake out next year.
Illinois is next up, after finishing sixth in the Big Ten last year at 11-9 — one of four teams with that same conference record (in case you forgot how messy the standings got at the end of last season). The Fighting Illini finished 20-13 overall, making the NCAA Tournament but falling in the first round to Arkansas.
- Matthew Mayer (12.5 PPG)
- Jayden Epps (9.5 PPG)
- Skyy Clark (7.0 PPG)
- RJ Melendez (6.0 PPG)
- Brandon Lieb (0.9 PPG)
- Terrence Shannon Jr., G, (17.2 PPG)
- Coleman Hawkins, F, (9.9 PPG)
- Dain Dainja, F, (9.5 PPG)
- Luke Goode, G, (4.0 PPG)
- Sencire Harris, G, (3.7 PPG)
- Ty Rodgers, G/F, (3.3 PPG)
- Niccolo Moretti, G, (redshirted)
- Marcus Domask, G/F, (16.7 PPG at Southern Illinois)
- Justin Harmon, G, (14.0 PPG at Utah Valley)
- Quincy Guerrier, F, (9.0 PPG at Oregon)
- Keaton Kutcher, G, (2.5 PPG at South Dakota)
Freshmen (Rankings from 247Sports Composite)
- Amani Hansberry, F, (No. 97)
- Dravyn Gibbs-Lawhorn, G, (No. 131)
RETURNING MINUTES: 60.9 percent (per barttorvik.com)
WHY IT WILL WORK
If Illinois gets its new pieces to blend together seamlessly with what’s already in place, the Illini could be a really solid team this year. Terrence Shannon Jr. needs to be an All-Big Ten player again for the Illini to reach their potential. And he’s good enough to do that. Marcus Domask and Justin Harmon put up nice stats last year at mid-majors, and could be underrated big additions for Illinois. Dainja flashed some real potential at times last year, and continued growth could turn him into an increasingly effective post player. Coleman Hawkins, with some more consistency, could be a real X-factor.
WHY IT WON’T
Illinois had some key players depart this offseason. While the team can withstand losing Matthew Mayer with Hawkins and Dainja back in the frontcourt, there isn’t a clear point guard on the roster. Shannon handled those duties some last season, but he’s more of a shooting guard or small forward. Jayden Epps was the loss that really left the Illini with this gap. Brad Underwood’s team might be able to overcome this issue, as it did last year at times. But there are real scenarios where the lack of a point guard proves a critical problem that holds back the Illini this year.
The Illini had a roller-coaster season last year, and with Underwood at the helm, that’s not a major shock — some nights they’ll look like one of the best teams in the Big Ten, some nights they’ll look like one of the worst. The truth, as it often does, likely lies somewhere in the middle. Illinois has one of the best players in the conference in Shannon, and some good pieces around him. The Illini could end up being contenders in the conference if they can find more consistency than they had last year. It’s more likely they end up in the next tier, but on paper, this should team should be in the NCAA Tournament mix.
BIG TEN OUTLOOK: Upper half
PRIOR ROSTER ANALYSES:
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