Coach Underwood and his team will have no more room for excuses by the time the 2019-20 basketball season rolls around. Check out our latest scholarship grid to get a complete idea of who is expected to be on the roster two years from now.
A junior Trent Frazier along with sophomores Ayo Dosunmu and Tevian Jones should form an impressive trio in its own right. Adding Spicy G as a junior and Samba Kane as a sophomore should round out the starting lineup nicely.
Suffice is to say, this is not a team that will try to overwhelm its opposition through size in the same manner as recent Purdue teams. Rather, the identity of the 2019-20 Illini will likely lie in its multidimensional scoring ability and takeaway-focused defense. Frazier, Dosunmu and Jones are all great individual players, but together their talents and physical tools complement each other and in doing so make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Besides a lack of size, the 2019-20 Illini will also likely be hampered by a dearth of senior leadership. Kipper Nichols will be the only senior on the roster in two seasons, which of course assumes that he doesn’t decide to take his degree and play his senior season elsewhere. Coach Brad Underwood, in his third year, may try to remedy this situation by recruiting senior transfers next season or JUCO players in 2018. Current JUCO PF Austin Trice is one player who could bring size, athleticism and experience to the Illini in 2020:
Trice isn’t the only potential newcomer who would give the Illini a boost in the 2019-20 season, as 2019 target Francis Okoro from Normal, Illinois, could provide the Illini with a dominating true center who could contribute as a freshman. Okoro already shows great touch around the rim and can play solid defense for a high school junior:
Adding Trice and Okoro to the 2019-20 roster is a realistic possibility and would be a major victory for Underwood. Both players, along with one or two others, could go a long ways toward balancing out the currently guard-dominated roster.
The 2019-20 season should be a breakout one for the Illini. The roster will be almost entirely comprised of Underwood recruits, and most of the major contributors will have had at least one season of experience to learn the intricacies of Big Ten basketball. A lot can happen between now and 2020, but I predict 22 wins buoyed by a strong conference tournament performance that puts the Illini in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013.
Hallelujah, it only took seven years to get back to the Big Dance! Will Underwood find even more success in the 2020-21 season? Find out on Friday when we continue our predictions of the next five yeas of Illinois Basketball!