Maintaining success has never been more difficult in college basketball. The combination of the transfer portal and the NBA Draft makes each offseason both eventful and potentially transformative for most programs.
Now that the smoke has mostly cleared following the 2021-22 season, we’ll go team-by-team in the Big Ten to assess which teams are set up for success, and who might take a step back.
We’ll start with Illinois. The Fighting Illini have gone 47-17 overall over the last two seasons and 31-9 in the Big Ten during that span. But perhaps no one has lost more production than head coach Brad Underwood.
- Kofi Cockburn (20.9 PPG),
- Alfonso Plummer (14.6 PPG ),
- Trent Frazier (11.6 PPG),
- Jacob Grandison (9.6 PPG),
- Andre Curbelo (7.5 PPG),
- Da’Monte Williams (3.9 PPG),
- Austin Hutcherson (2.8 PPG),
- Omar Payne (1.8 PPG),
- Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk (1.6 PPG),
- Brandin Podziemski (1.4 PPG)
- Coleman Hawkins, SF, (5.9 PPG),
- RJ Melendez, SG, (3.8 PPG),
- Luke Goode, SF, (2.0 PPG),
- Brandon Lieb, C, (0.8 PPG)
- Terrence Shannon Jr., SG, (10.4 PPG at Texas Tech),
- Matthew Mayer, PF, (9.8 PPG at Baylor),
- Dain Dainja, PF, (2.0 PPG at Baylor)
Freshmen (Rankings from 247Sports Composite)
- Skyy Clark, PG (No. 30)
- Ty Rodgers, PF (No. 48)
- Jayden Epps, CG (No. 67),
- Sencire Harris, SG (No. 106)
- Zacharie Perrine, PF (France)
RETURNING MINUTES: 16.5 percent (per barttorvik.com)
WHY IT WILL WORK
Clark missed most of his senior high school season with a knee injury, but he has immense potential. If he is ready and the Illini can play small ball and spread teams out with three or four shooters around him, they’ll be dangerous. Returning players like Hawkins, Melendez and Goode could be ready to develop into much larger roles, and freshmen Rodgers and Epps should be able to contribute in year one.
WHY IT WON’T
Illinois is going to try to win without a proven point guard or center, and it isn’t clear they will be able to defend at the same level Underwood has grown accustomed to over the last few years. Shannon and Mayer are nice additions, but neither has proven he can carry a team. The Illini do not appear to have done nearly enough to replace all that was lost. Unless they make more additions, depth could prove to be a problem.
Illinois’ recent success was more about Kofi Cockburn than Underwood. At 7-feet, 285 pounds and athletic, Cockburn presented a unique challenge that few teams had answers for. Prior to his arrival, Illinois was 26-39 in Underwood’s first two seasons. Without Cockburn, Illinois will snap back to reality.
BIG TEN OUTLOOK: Middle of the pack
The Daily Hoosier –“Where Indiana fans assemble when they’re not at Assembly”
- Find us on Facebook: thedailyhoosier
- You can follow us on Twitter: @daily_hoosier
- Seven ways to support completely free IU coverage at no cost to you.