Illinois basketball good, bad, and ugly entering the stretch run of the 2021-22 season

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Illinois basketball

Jan 25, 2022; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk (13) drives to the basket as Michigan State Spartans forward Marcus Bingham Jr. (30) defends during the first half at State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Illinois basketball team is 19 games into the 2021-22 campaign, and things are looking pretty good for the program.

A big win over Michigan State has the Illini fanbase buzzing right now. We were able to knock off the No. 10 team in the nation without two key players. The sky is the limit for this team.

There has been a lot of good this season, but there is also some bad and ugly I would like to address as we enter the stretch run.

Here is the Illinois basketball good, bad, and ugly entering the stretch run.

Good

We are 19 games into the season, and with a record of 14-5 overall and 7-2 in the Big Ten, there is a lot of good happening with the Illinois basketball program.

But there is one good that stands out the most to me. That good is the next-man-up mentality with the Orange and Blue.

This season could have easily been lost. Illinois could be floundering right now and have pointed to the suspensions, injuries, and protocols that have torn our lineup apart. But we didn’t make those excuses. When someone is out for a game, it is like we fight even harder. Someone steps up to fill the void.

Did you know, there have only been three games this season where Illinois had Kofi Cockburn, Andre Curbelo, and Trent Frazier all suit up on the same day? Even with a full lineup not being on the court for the vast majority of the 2021-22 campaign, Illinois’ next-man-up mentality has helped propel the program to great heights.

In the absence of Curbelo at point guard, it has mainly been Frazier and Da’Monte Williams running the point. They have done a solid job distributing the ball throughout his absence.

Coleman Hawkins was thrown into the fire early on, as he has run the point at times, he has played the wing at times, and he has even been our center this season. Hawkins is learning on the fly and continues to develop as a player.

The seldom heard from Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk has taken on a bigger role with the team as of late. Kofi has been out, so Verdonk stepped into the No. 5 spot and has held his own for the most part. He had played a total of 74 minutes coming into this season, and through 19 games, Verdonk is already at 169 minutes of action.

Alfonso Plummer was supposed to be the No. 3 or No. 4 go-to guy on the Illinois basketball team entering this season. With the absence of bodies on the court, Plummer quickly turned into one of the prime scoring options.

Coming into the 2021-22 campaign, the vision was completely different than what we are seeing today. But Illinois has adapted on the fly. The fact we are 14-5 overall is quite impressive. I attribute the success to the next-man-up mentality.

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