Illinois Fighting Illini
2017-18 record: 14-18, 4-14 in the Big Ten
Head coach: Brad Underwood
Tenure at Illinois: 2nd season
Career coaching record: 123-45
Home court: State Farm Center
Starters: G Trent Frazier, G Ayo Dosunmu, G Aaron Jordan, F Kipper Nichols, C Adonis De La Rosa
Bench: G Da’Monte Williams, G Andres Feliz, G Tyler Underwood, G Tevian Jones, C Samba Kane
Overview: Most everybody is overlooking Illinois in the powerhouse Maui Invitational this year, as no one knows what to expect from a team with so much turnover. The Fighting Illini sit on the opposite side of Duke’s bracket and could be in for a roller-coaster year. Head coach Brad Underwood has a young team and looks to spend the 2018-19 season developing his roster.
After an underwhelming campaign a season ago, star Leron Black graduated from Illinois and a plethora of crucial role players departed as well, leaving behind a team with a promising backcourt but not much else. Point guard Trent Frazier had a strong finish to last year and made the All-Big Ten freshman team. In addition to the No. 34 rated prospect in the 2018 class, Ayo Dosunmu, the Fighting Illini could have the makings of a strong team in future years.
This season figures to be a bumpy one in Champaign with a projected finish near the bottom of the conference, but don’t be surprised if the talented, young group pulls off an upset at some point this year.
One thing that needs to go right: With so many newcomers, Underwood has to instill his own attitude and style in his young team, so his players can jell as the year progresses. With the right system, this freshman class has an opportunity to be program-changing.
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One thing that could go wrong: The Illini squander opportunities against mid-tier conference foes when the youngsters look ahead to matchups with the alphas of the Big Ten and never get the chance to gain any confidence late in the season.