Illinois Preview Capsule
Last season: 20-15 overall, 8-10 in the Big Ten.
Nickname: Fighting Illini.
Coach: Brad Underwood.
Conference: Big Ten.
Who’s gone: G Malcolm Hill, G Tracy Abrams, G Jalen-Coleman Lands (transfer), G D.J. Williams (transfer), G Jaylon Tate, G Alex Austin C Maverick Morgan, C Mike Thorne Jr.
Who’s back: G Te’Jon Lucas. Last season, the sophomore was fifth in the Big Ten in turnover ratio during conference games. F Michael Finke. He shot 44.9 percent from behind the arc during conference play, ranking him eighth in the Big Ten. F Leron Black. Black had elbow surgery during the preseason, but is expected to be healthy for the season opener. He led the team in rebounding at 6.3 per game. F. Kipper Nichols. After sitting out the fall due to NCAA transfer rules, he appeared in 21 games for the Illini. He averaged 5.3 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in Big Ten play.
Who’s new: G Mark Smith. Smith was named the 2017 Mr. Basketball of Illinois after leading Edwardsville to a 30-2 record. G Trent Frazier. Frazier is a consensus four-star recruit from Florida. He averaged just over 27 points per game during his senior season. G. Da’Monte Williams. Williams played just three seasons during his senior year of high school due to an ACL tear. However, he did average 25.6 points per game for Peoria Manual. G Mark Alstork.
The Skinny: In Underwood’s first season, the Illini have the chance to make it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years. In his four years at Stephen F. Austin and Oklahoma State, Underwood never missed the tournament. In one year at Oklahoma State, Underwood showed that he can put together one of the best offenses in the country. If he can do the same at Illinois, Illini fans could finally enjoy a meaningful postseason appearance.