The Illinois Men’s Basketball program has a very consistent and strong history, although they have had quite the rough stretch recently. With 30 NCAA Tournament appearances and 17 Conference Championships, Illini basketball has experienced something unusual with 7 missed NCAA Tournaments in a row.
John Groce was hired to replace Bruce Webber who led the Illini to a national championship game and to put it nicely, the Groce experiment was a failure. Then, with new AD Josh Whitman at the helm, Brad Underwood was hired to “bring back” Illini basketball to its former glory.
The first two seasons of the Underwood era were lackluster, however, Underwood brought in Top-35 guard Ayo Dosunmu, and a Top-50 Center in Kofi Cockburn during the tough times, proving that Underwood and his staff could get it done on the recruiting trail, but with mediocre on-court performances.
Now that Underwood had his guys, the Illini had a breakout campaign finishing 4th in the difficult Big Ten Conference and were 2 points away from winning the League Title, and pending the return of Dosunmu and Cockburn, the Orange and Blue could be in for an even bigger season in 2020-21.
Underwood has also made some coaching changes as well, totally revamping his defensive scheme from a high-pressure defense that allowed easy baskets but forced a lot of turnovers, to a much more traditional, hard-nosed style, which fit his team very well.
Through just three seasons, it seems as if the Brad Underwood hire has the potential to be one of the best hires the University of Illinois has ever made.
Things are also looking up in the Illini’s recruiting as in the 2020 Class, as the Illini picked up 4 commits, including Adam Miller, Andre Curbelo, Coleman Hawkins, and newly committed Brandon Lieb, which was good enough for a Top-15 class in the nation.
Adding on, sharpshooting 4-Star Luke Goode has started off the 2021 Class in a great way, as he pledged his commitment to the Illini back in April. This may be too early to call, but as far as we know, Illinois may have hit the jackpot with Brad Underwood.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Bonaguro / The Daily Illini