Illinois Basketball: Illini missing from way-to-early top 25

The Illinois basketball team saw a resurgence during the 2019-2020 campaign that has fans excited about the future.

Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn led the way for the Orange and Blue. They were a dynamic duo who helped bring pride back to the once legendary program. This great run ended with Illinois sporting a 21-10 record overall and a 13-7 record in the Big Ten. The Illini were also ranked in the top 25 by seasons end.

We all know how the great run ended, though. Covid-19 stormed in and wiped out sports completely. But there will always be a next season, and it is never too early to start thinking about who will be contenders come winter.

In fact, on Wednesday, ESPN’s Jeff Borzello published his way-too-early top 25 for the 2020-21 campaign. The top of his list was the Gonzaga Bulldogs. They are one of the best teams every year, so it isn’t a surprise he has them so high on his list.

Borzello’s rankings have six Big Ten programs in the top 25. The highest-ranked Big Ten team is the Iowa Hawkeyes checking in at No. 5 in the nation. Wisconsin follows them at No. 7. The final four consist of Michigan State (No. 10), Ohio State (No. 22), Indiana (No. 23) and Rutgers (No. 25).

There is an honorable mention of sorts titled “Next in line” for Borzello as well. Arkansas, Richmond, Louisville, Michigan and UCLA don this list.

What is the noticeable blemish on Borzello’s list? Illinois is nowhere in sight. He left the Illini off the top 25 and the “Next in line”.

I can only assume that Borzello saw that Kofi and Ayo both declared for the NBA Draft. That is a huge hit to the Orange and Blue. Even without them, I think we can still make waves and crack the top 25, especially with the class we have coming in for 2020.

But the thing that confuses me the most is the fact Borzello has Iowa returning Luka Garza, who is also entered into the NBA Draft. He has just as good or even a better chance of staying in the draft than Ayo and Kofi. By that logic, you would think Borzello would have Ayo and Kofi returning to the Illini. And, if that is the case, how in the world does anyone keep Illinois out of the top 10, let alone the top 25.

It is way-to-early to have any grip on the top 25 in college basketball. With everything going on in the world, the NBA doesn’t have a chance to evaluate players and the draft continues to get pushed back. That means it is even more likely players like Ayo and Kofi pull their names back out of the draft. This would change the top 25 drastically.