After the return of stars Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn to Champaign, Brad Underwood and Co. have the potential to be one of the greatest teams to ever wear the Illinois uniform. The Illini return 89% of starts from a 20 win team which finished 4th in the best conference in basketball and they add two top 50 recruits in Adam Miller and Andre Curbelo. So, that begs the question, what will the lineup look like for this Illini Squad?
Starter: Trent Frazier
Backup: Andre Curbelo
Analysis: Senior Guard Trent Frazier should get the start here, Frazier has the potential to light it up from deep although he had a down junior year offensively. As for Curbelo, he should come in and give the Illini really good minutes off the bench. He’s a flashy guard and should be the starter once Frazier departs.
Starter: Ayo Dosunmu
Backup: Austin Hutcherson
Analysis: Dosunmu looked like a sure fire NBA Draft pick this season but he decided to return to Champaign to potentially bring home a championship. Dosunmu should be one of the best players in all of College Basketball this year and if it weren’t for Luka Garza, Dosunmu would be the favorite to win the Big Ten Player Of The Year. Expect another big year and more clutch shot making from Ayo. The main backup for Dosunmu should be Austin Hutcherson, who is drawing some comparisons to current Miami Heat sharpshooter Duncan Robinson. The Division 3 Transfer should be a valuable asset for the Illini
Starter: Adam Miller
Backup: Jacob Grandison
Analysis: Before the aforementioned Dosunmu announced that he would return to Champaign, Miller was expected to replace Ayo. However, that is obviously not the case. There were rumblings that Miller would flip to Michigan before he eventually signed with the Illini, and Miller should be expected to start. Grandison is another transfer, and will provide great depth off the bench.
Starter: Damonte Williams
Backup: Coleman Hawkins
Analysis: This may come as a surprise to some but I have Damonte Williams slotted in at the 4 spot. I expect the Illini to roll with a 4 Guard lineup and the experience of Williams should win out. Williams is the best defender on the team and should’ve been on the All Big Ten Defensive team. His major weakness is Offense, but he found his groove later on in the year. Hawkins and Benjamin Bosmans Verdonk should both get solid amounts of playing time as both fit the stretch 4 mold that the Illini need
Starter: Kofi Cockburn
Backup: Giorgi Bezhanishvili
Analysis: Cockburn flirted with the NBA Draft, but eventually made the decision to return with Dosunmu. Cockburn is absolutely huge and totally reinvented this Illinois squad with his size and strength. The reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year is going to have a monster sophomore season and should be backed up by Giorgi Bezhanishvili, who had a great Freshman campaign but was lackluster in his sophomore season. Expect the Georgia native to bounce back and be a great backup option for Kofi.
This Illini team has the chance to be something special, I expect the Orange and Blue to get a high seed in the NCAA Tournament and make a very deep run. Ayo and Kofi should make for the best duo in the country and with the depth around those two stars, I see no reason why the Illini can’t compete for a Big Ten or National title.
Image: Austin Yattoni