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What Does Michael Finke’s Departure Mean for Illinois?

The Redshirt-Junior is the third player to leave this offseason.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Missouri Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Following his redshirt-junior season with the Illini and first-year Head Coach Brad Underwood, Michael Finke has announced his decision to transfer from the Illinois Men’s Basketball team via his Twitter:

Finke is now the third member of last year’s squad to announce his decision to leave the team. Leron Black chose to pursue professional opportunities within the past couple weeks, and former Mr. Basketball from the state of Illinois, Mark Smith, announced his decision to transfer from the team on March 5.

All three were starters for Illinois, and, with Finke’s transfer, the Illini will be looking at a whole new frontcourt.

The Champaign native started all but three games for Illinois last season, averaging almost 10 points and 4.6 rebounds in 25 minutes per contest. His shooting numbers from beyond the arc dropped over 10 percent from his sophomore to junior seasons, largely in part to Finke having to play out of position.

With an undersized roster, Underwood lacked the intel he needed to lead this team to success in his system. Finke is a stretch-four, a big guy who can shoot the ball from deep, extend defenses, and force opposing big men to come out and guard on the perimeter. Without a true center on last year’s roster, Finke was forced to slide down to the five and fill the “rim protector” role. He’s not a dominant, back-to-the-basket big, and it didn’t necessarily bode well for him. Come conference play, the lack of a true big exposed Illinois’ biggest weakness. Finke wasn’t recruited to come in and bang around down low with the likes of Isaac Haas, DIamond Stone or Mo Wagner.

With Black’s departure, it looked like more minutes might be able for him to slide back to where he was comfortable — on the perimeter. Greg Eboigbodin would be entering his second season with the team after getting some quality minutes his first year, and the Illini also add Samba Kane, a long, athletic big who excels at blocking shots and running the floor.

There’s a lot of minutes up for grabs in the frontcourt right now. Kipper Nichols, Ebo, Kane, and Matic are the only guys fighting for them currently.

The decision could be a precursor of things to come for the basketball team though. Giorgi Bezhanishvili, a 6-foot-10, 230-pound forward from New York, is currently on an official visit with Illinois, and there has been a lot of talk around the Illini potentially landing a graduate transfer.

Michael Finke’s younger brother, Tim, signed with Grand Canyon University and former NBA All-Star, Dan Majerle, earlier this winter.

Maybe some of these things played into Finke’s decision to leave the team, or it just wasn’t a good fit with the system or coaching staff after all. Regardless, Illinois loses some much needed size and experience from what would have been one of just two seniors on next year’s team.

This likely isn’t the last guy to leave the team, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Brad Underwood brings in two more big men.