The fans of Illinois Basketball are a patient bunch. After years and years of mediocre play coupled with years and years of recruiting misses, things are starting to look up for the Illini faithful. By the time the 2020-21 season rolls around, there will be a few current pieces that are there to lead the charge.
2020 would, in my opinion, be primetime for Illinois to put itself back on the map in college basketball. With a senior Trent Frazier and Da’Monte Williams, junior versions of Ayo Dosunmu, Tevian Jones and Samba Kane, the Illini will have all the pieces to compete for a Big Ten title.
I believe the Illini will land Francis Okoro or E.J. Liddell as 2019 commitments, meaning their future will be set up with these two as sophomores. These two will want to play for the Illini for one simple reason: the system. Underwood’s system is conducive to their style of play. The run and gun, strong defense, physical style that Liddell and Okoro play so well. If you have seen video on Okoro or Liddell, you will understand why they are two guys Brad Underwood and the rest of the Illinois coaching staff are pushing hard to come be an Illini.
In theory, and all this can be at this point is pure theory, the Illini roster will be filled with talented players like Ayo Dosunmu, Trent Frazier, Tevian Jones, Francis Orkok, EJ Liddell, Samba Kane, Alan Griffin, Greg Eboigbodin and Da’Monte Williams. Those nine with a solid bench and I would take that against almost anyone in college basketball.
So what could the Illini be looking at in 2020-21? Matt Rejc said earlier this week he sees 22 wins and an NCAA Tournament berth in 2019-20. With one more year of growth and development, could the Illini fare even better? Maybe it is the orange and blue in me, but I emphatically say yes. With this talent and this system and coaching staff, the ceiling may be as high as it has been since the mid-2000s and the Bruce Weber era.
Worst case scenario? This team should still rattle off 20+ wins and garner an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Best case? A Big Ten Championship, the first since 2005, and a top-two seed in March.
Most realistic? A top-three finish in the Big Ten, a top-five seed, and a trip to the Elite Eight. Call me a homer, but I am thinking best case scenario in 2020-21.
What better time for the Illini to make it back to the Final Four than when it is in nearby Indianapolis. Book those tickets now.