Illinois Basketball: 3 areas of improvement entering the 2021-22 season

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Illinois basketball

CHAMPAIGN, ILLINOIS – DECEMBER 14: Kofi Cockburn #21 of the Illinois Fighting Illini on the free throw line in the game against the Old Dominion Monarchs at State Farm Center on December 14, 2019 in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

Illinois basketball finally got over the hump and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2021.

The future of the Illini program is extremely bright. A 24-win campaign is something to be proud of considering where this team was just three seasons ago.

But even with Illinois getting back to a respectable level, there are some issues that could be fixed for the upcoming season.

Here are three areas of improvement for the Illinois basketball team entering the 2021-22 season.

1. Free Throw Percentage

Heading into the 2021-22 campaign, there is a lot to be excited about when it comes to the Illinois basketball program. There were also a few bugaboos for the Orange and Blue.

One of the main glaring issues was one of the easiest shots in the game. A free throw.

Illinois was not good when it came to the free throw line in 2020-21. As a team, the Illini hit just 69% of their free throws, which ranked No. 236 out of the 347 teams that played DI basketball last season.

Who were the main culprits of the bad free throw shooting? Obviously, Kofi Cockburn. He shot, by far, the most free throws on the team and only hit them at a clip of 55.3%. The next sub-70% free throw shooter is Da’Monte Williams, and he shot 68.1% from the charity stripe.

What needs to change for the Illini to improve their free throw shooting? Simply put, Kofi needs to improve.

This isn’t the 1990s where you can be a big man who is awful from the free throw line. It is unacceptable in the college ranks and even more unacceptable in the NBA.

If Kofi would just have hit 60% of his free throws in 2020-21, the team would have been bumped up to 70.7% from the charity stripe. Instead of Illinois being ranked No. 236 in the country, they would have been in the top 200.

At the free throw line, Illinois goes as Kofi goes. Improvement from the big man is a must for the program and for his future NBA career.

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