Fourth would be pretty good.
In an unofficial preseason poll of Big Ten teams from a few dozen reporters and The Columbus Dispatch, Illinois is projected to finish fourth, behind Purdue, Michigan State and Maryland.
The Boilers and Spartans were the only teams to receive a first-place vote.
Seniors Terrence Shannon Jr. (First Team) and Coleman Hawkins (Second Team) are also projected to be among the league’s best players.
Purdue’s Zach Edey — yes, he’s back — is projected to be the league’s player of the year. No surprise there.
Illinois head coach Brad Underwood took part in Big Ten Media Days on Tuesday in Minneapolis, and he was high on his squad.
“We have two guys (Hawkins & Shannon) who are two of the better players in the country, not just the league,” Underwood said, according to FightingIllini.com. “To know that they went through their process, they did their due diligence and felt that coming back was in their best interest, it can really kind of springboard both of them. Off the seasons they had last year, they both grew. They can really blossom and really now put themselves in leadership roles, so I’m really excited about that.”
The Illini’s first exhibition is just a week away: Friday, Oct. 20 vs. Ottawa on BTN+.