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2017-18 Review: Michael Finke

Statistically, Michael Finke had his best season in 2017-2018.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

By the numbers

In 28 games played, Michael Finke averaged 9.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.8 turnovers, 0.3 steals and 0.3 blocks per game.

All of those numbers are improvements over his previous two seasons wearing the orange and blue and like (former) teammate Mark Smith, Michael Finke’s statistics deteriorated when Illinois began playing Big Ten conference opponents as opposed to the non-conference cupcakes earlier in the season.

In the Illini’s first six games of the season against Southern, UT-Martin, Depaul, Marshall, Augustana and North Carolina Central, Finke averaged 14.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists. In Illinois’ first six Big Ten games against Northwestern, Maryland, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa and Nebraska (all losses), Finke averaged 6.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.0 assists. Finke’s lack of speed and at times lack of confidence impacted his play against more talented opponents.

Impact on the Illini

The Illini’s biggest weakness all season long was a gaping hole at the center position — both a rim protector and a big-man inside capable of getting easy buckets from the post. Leron Black was really the only player capable of scoring at will from the block, and he’s listed at 6-foot-7.

Finke should have been a productive stretch-5, a center who plays at the perimeter and spaces the floor for the guards to drive and kick. Finke shot just 30 percent from 3-point range, making just 29 of his 94 attempts from behind the arc. Unlike Michigan’s Mo Wagner, who Finke mirrors in size at 6-foot-11 and roughly 240 pounds, Finke struggles to put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket.

Michael Finke missed four games towards the end of the season in February because of a concussion and lingering concussion symptoms. He missed games against Penn State, Indiana, Nebraska and Michigan State, and the Illini were forced to go small and often had to play youngsters Greg Eboigbodin and Matic Vessel to offset the size difference against those teams.

Finke’s Best Game in 2017-18

Michael Finke recorded two double-doubles this season. One was in a loss at Nebraska and one was in a win versus Augustana. Let’s go with the game in which the Illini won, for ease of conversation.

November 22, 2017. The day before Thanksgiving. Michael Finke has 20 points and 10 rebounds against Division-III Augustana Vikings. Finke is seven for 11 from the field and made three of six 3-pointers in Illinois 96-62 win. Finke made 75 percent of free throws too in just 25 minutes of play.

Michael Finke was crashing the boards, cleaning up the glass and getting easy dunks like this:

The following game against North Carolina-Central, Finke again put up 20+ points and looked like a menace against inferior competition.

The Down and Dirty

Michael Finke does not have the skills or low-post touch as Leron Black. He doesn't have the athleticism or rangy-ness of a Greg Eboigbodin to effectively protect the rim on a consistent basis. Still, he’s a player who can — with improved shooting — stretch defenses and play some high-low on screen-and-rolls with guards Trent Frazier and Te’Jon Lucas.

The Champaign native is a glue guy. Coaches like him. Players like him. Finke is great with the media and overall is a solid representative of what Brad Underwood wants in a student-athlete wearing the orange and blue. Things like free throw shooting, 3-point shooting and his first step with the ball in his hands are all things he can work on this offseason.

It will be a busy summer at Ubben, hitting the gym for countless hours for Michael Finke and all of the returnees ahead of 2018-2019.