Illinois basketball is starting the 2022-23 campaign extremely underrated.
The last time we saw the Illini, we were struggling in a second-round exit to the Houston Cougars. While the Cougars shouldn’t have been a No. 5 seed, it was still tough to watch Illinois exit in the second round for the second straight postseason.
We are now heading into a new year with a reloaded team. Yes, many pieces are missing from that 2021-22 squad, but the Illini still has some serious talent with experience. Some national pundits don’t think Illinois is one of the top teams in the nation, though.
On Thursday, Gary Parrish of CBS Sports released his top 25 for the upcoming season. These rankings were released due to Kylan Boswell reclassifying to be eligible for the 2022-23 campaign. That in itself hurts a little considering Illinois was in the running for Boswell.
There are a few Big Ten teams in Parrish’s top 25. Indiana is the first Big Ten program, checking in at No. 17 in the nation. Michigan is next at No. 19. Purdue No. 22, Ohio State No. 24, and Michigan State No. 25 round out the top 25.
One noticeable team missing from the top 25 is Illinois. Parrish left the Illini out of the top 25. He actually left us out of the top 26 because he gives fans an extra team in the rankings. His No. 26 team in the nation is the Saint Louis Billikens. THE BILLIKENS!
Illinois basketball has reloaded and will shock the world with their talent.
I know I sound like a homer. It is tough to shake my fist in frustration and type at the same time. But there are logical reasons why Illinois should be in the top 25.
Yes, we lost a ton of talent. The Illini only have four returning scholarship players from last year’s team. You can’t just look at what we have lost, though. You have to look at how we have reloaded.
Terrence Shannon Jr. and Matthew Mayer transferred into the Illinois program. Mayer has won a national title in recent years, and Shannon has been to the NCAA tournament on numerous occasions. They both have more postseason experience than any Illinois players since Dee Brown donned the Orange and Blue.
Illinois brought in a top 10 recruiting class this season. Skyy Clark should lead the way, as he is the highest-rated point guard the Illini have had since, yes, Dee Brown. Ty Rodgers is a great wing player who just competed with some of the top high school players in the nation to win a gold medal for the U18 Team USA program.
Let’s not forget about the good pieces Illinois has returning. Luke Goode, RJ Melendez, and Coleman Hawkins all have postseason experience, and all know Brad Underwood’s schemes. They are the glue that will bring together the transfer newcomers and the freshmen newcomers.
Illinois’ starting lineup is going to be littered with talent. No. 1 Clark (4-star), No. 2 Shannon (4-star), No. 3 Melendez (4-star), No. 4 Mayer (4-star), and No. 5 Hawkins (3-star) is the starting lineup I see being the best for Illinois. The bench would look something like; Goode (4-star), Dain Dainja (4-star), Ty Rodgers (4-star), Jayden Epps (4-star), Sencire Harris (4-star), and Zacharie Perrin (NR).
Think about that for a second. Illinois can easily go 11 deep every night. Out of the 11 players in the rotation, only two are not former four-star recruits. One is Hawkins, who might be one of the best out of the bunch. The other, Perrin, isn’t ranked yet due to him being overseas.
Illinois is stacked. People better start realizing this fact. This is a team that will not only finish in the top 25, but they should be a contender to reach the pinnacle of the college game.