The season is still multiple months away, but the Illinois basketball team is getting some shine from national media.
On Monday, I wrote about an updated ranking by Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports. He has the Illini as the No. 35 team in the nation despite a great offseason of freshmen and transfer additions. I thought No. 35 in the nation was a little low, and I expressed my displeasure with Rothstein’s opinion.
With who Illinois added this offseason, I thought they should be in the top 25. I am not saying a top 10 program, but the Illini have the roster to compete and stay in the top 25 for the 2022-23 campaign. It looks like Jeff Borzello agrees with this thought.
Borzello decided to release his way-too-early top 25 on Tuesday morning. This ranking has North Carolina taking the top spot with the Houston Cougars close behind. Unlike Rothstein, Borzello actually has Illinois in the top 25 at spot No. 25.
Illinois basketball has the depth to stay in the top 25 all season long.
I realize that Illinois lost a ton of talent from last season’s team. Kofi Cockburn is not easy to replace. We lost all of our starting guards as well. But Brad Underwood did reload the roster.
Additions like Skyy Clark, Terrence Shannon Jr., and Matthew Mayer should make the Illini a threat. Our incoming class of 2022 and some sharpshooters from the team last season should give us some of the best depth in college basketball.
I do disagree with Borzello’s projected starting lineup, though. He has Dain Dainja starting at the No. 5 spot, but I believe Underwood will go with a better shooting lineup and bring Dainja off the bench. This is how I see the starting lineup; No. 1 Skyy Clark, No. 2 Terrence Shannon Jr., No. 3 RJ Melendez, No. 4 Matthew Mayer, and No. 5 Coleman Hawkins.
No matter what the starting lineup will look like, I believe Illinois is a top 25 program. Clearly, Borzello is on board with that mindset as well. This is a stacked Illini group, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see this team in, at least, the Sweet 16 come March.