Most hyped hoops season in a decade-plus begins now | Sports activities
In an alternate, coronavirus-free universe, beat author Scott Richey would possibly spend not less than just a little time Wednesday at Ubben Basketball Advanced for the primary Illinois males’s basketball apply of the 2020-21 season. Alas, the pandemic continues, leaving our basketball author solely to ponder what he is perhaps trying to see from the Illini of their first official exercise:
Brad Underwood hasn’t offered particular particulars on how the continued pandemic has affected his staff, however the Illinois coach has revealed there have been a number of gamers in a quarantine state of affairs since they arrived again on campus. The 2020-21 season is extra of a numbers recreation than some other, with one optimistic case (and any subsequent contact tracing) maybe throwing a staff off beam for a number of weeks. The query on the primary day of apply: Did all 17 gamers take part?
Perhaps you’ve heard: That is an skilled Illinois staff. What guys like Trent Frazier, Da’Monte Williams, and so on., carry to the desk is a recognized commodity. How the Illini freshmen match with this veteran group is now a focal point. That match will develop and alter in the course of the course of the season, however how Adam Miller and Andre Curbelo play off Illinois’ different guards might be key. And don’t overlook Coleman Hawkins. His distinctive ability set relative to the opposite Illini bigs is intriguing.
Illinois tried 566 three-pointers within the 2019-20 season, which stood because the twelfth fewest within the Massive Ten. Making simply 30.9 p.c of them — worst within the Massive Ten and tied for 293rd nationally — was the problem. It’s a problem compounded by Alan Griffin, who was the staff’s finest shooter, now taking part in at Syracuse. The reply? Enchancment throughout the board is required, however now-eligible guard Austin Hutcherson has the fame of being an elite shooter. Time to see if that’s nonetheless true.
Simply because Illinois is a veteran, skilled staff doesn’t imply there isn’t nonetheless room for enchancment. If the Illini are going to be that top-10 staff that appears to be the nationwide consensus, development is definitely crucial. Offensively, Illinois wouldn’t be damage by Williams turning into even barely extra of a risk or Kofi Cockburn stretching his recreation to not less than the mid-range. Defensively, a cheerful medium between a staff that forces robust pictures and may nonetheless drive turnovers wouldn’t damage.
Scott Richey is a reporter protecting school basketball at The Information-Gazette. His electronic mail is email@example.com, and you’ll observe him on Twitter (@srrichey).