Illinois makes the Final Four.
Dennis Gates said it will happen, so now it has to.
Terrence Shannon Jr finishes top 3 in national player of the year voting
One of the Illini Men’s Basketball assistants leaves for a head coaching job and Orlando Antigua makes a triumphant return to Champaign.
Illinois makes second weekend and finish with three All-Big Ten players.
This might seem bold, but hear me out. TSJ is obvious and already seems like a lock for All-Big Ten first team. But two of three consisting of Domask, Guerrier and Hawkins will find themselves on an All-Big Ten team at the conclusion of the regular season (maybe all three too). Sure, we might not see another 33 point masterclass out of Domask, but if he can consistently put up 12-18 points per game he could find himself there. If Guerrier keeps racking up those boards and draining threes, you never know. And Hawkins is, well, Hawkins. You live by the guy and you die by the guy.
This is the team that will make the second weekend. I’m counting on it. I don’t care if it’s just the sweet 16, this is the team that’s built to do it. I might come back to this in March and be disappointed (usually the case), but just like Underwood, I’m very confident in this group.
I’m going to keep predicting it until it finally happens: Illinois makes the Sweet 16. The Illini didn’t have the experience in 2021, and didn’t have the chemistry in 2023, but I truly believe this current team has both. As long as they don’t get a terrible draw come Selection Sunday (i.e. 2022 meeting Final Four-caliber Houston in the Round of 32), then I like Illinois’ chances. For football, I think 2024 brings us a bowl game. Yes, one that will occur during calendar-year 2024, but with the freshmen and transfers that Bret has coming in next season, 6 wins is certainly in play, even with the brutal schedule that they’ll face.
Illinois makes the Elite 8 and Terrence Shannon Jr. is named a consensus first team All-American. Illinois is a very solid defensive team and the experience they have will help them down the stretch. Many of these guys have experience in March which will be crucial for a deep run in this year’s big dance. On top of that, having our team leader in Shannon flirt with being a mock lottery pick in next year’s draft proves that we have one of the best players in the nation. Averaging over 20 points a game and almost 40% from three has made Shannon look pro ready all season long up to this point. Between his explosiveness in transition, his elite perimeter shooting and his lockdown defense, Shannon has proven himself as arguably the best two way player in the country. The ceiling for this year’s team is very high and I believe they will finally get past the first weekend in March which has been haunting the Fighting Illini for the last several years.