Illinois Basketball: Analyzation of the big men for the Illini

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 09: Kipper Nichols
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 09: Kipper Nichols /

The performance of the Illinois basketball big men has been key to their success so far this season. So, what should Brad Underwood do with his post rotation moving forward?

It is no secret that the play of the Illini bigs has directly coincided with the play of the team overall in a lot of games this season. In fact, three out of the Illini’s top four scorers so far this season are big men.

Junior Leron Black has led the team with 13.6 points per game and has added 5.2 rebounds per game as well. Michael Finke is close behind him with 12.3 ppg. Kipper Nichols is 4th on the team in scoring, averaging 10.1 ppg. Both Finke and Nichols are tied for the team lead in rebounds per game at 5.8.

Obviously, it is very evident that these three guys mean a lot to the Illini’s success offensively. It is good to see such a balance in scoring. It was also good to see Finke step up against Longwood in the absence of Black and Nichols due to injury.

Even when those two guys get back, I still think there should be a rotation change. Although I think Finke has tremendous value on the offensive end, I just think Nichols would be better in the starting lineup alongside Leron Black in the frontcourt.

Finke is an elite shooter when he wants to be, but he continues to show me that he just doesn’t have the athleticism and quickness to keep up with some of the bigs in the conference. Obviously, he should be one of the first guys off of the bench, but especially after Kipper’s performance against UNLV (8 points, 10 rebounds in 21 minutes), I think he proved that he can rebound with anyone inside.

I think that another thing to look at is getting Greg Eboigbodin some more minutes. Although he still has a ways to go as far as footwork, assignments, and coordination, I really like to see him coming into the game and battling on the glass. His athleticism and length are good tools to help him in the future. I think he could help with the size disparity Underwood’s team has.

It was good seeing Eboigbodin and Matic Vesel out there against Longwood in meaningful moments. This really shows the potential that Underwood sees in those guys.

Vesel, like Eboigbodin, still has much to improve on to get solid minutes. I think Eboigbodin looks a lot more ready than Vesel. Vesel just kind of looks a little lost out there. But at 6-foot-10, 215-pounds, if Vesel put on some muscle and developed his coordination, look out. He already has solid length and is a decent shooter. I think both of these guys have potential to be solid contributors for the program in the future.

Next: Takeaways from the Illini win over Longwood

Overall, the frontcourt of the Illini has been solid. But, believe it or not, I need more out of these guys, especially Finke. When conference play starts, these guys are really going to have to show their toughness. Black and Finke, being two of the veterans of the team, are going to have to lead by example. The frontcourt is going to be key for the Illini because as Illinois reporter Jeremy Werner said, “There are no more cupcakes on the schedule”.