Illinois Basketball: Illini high on Andy Katz’s Power 36 rankings

Illinois basketball fans get to see the team on the floor for the first time on October 28.

That date is one month from today, but it will be here before you know it. The Illini are poised to have a great 2022-23 campaign with a big offseason of turnover and reloading.

There is so much speculation on what the Orange and Blue could look like, though. With Kofi Cockburn now out of the picture, Illinois is going to need to find a way to still own the paint. We could also become a more perimeter-oriented team and start shooting the three-ball. That is always an option.

With all of the speculation about the Illini, it is interesting to see the pundit’s thoughts on how good Illinois could be this upcoming season. On Monday, Andy Katz of the NCAA and the Big Ten Network released his Power 36. This is a listing of his 36 best teams in college basketball.

The top of the list are the usual names. North Carolina is No. 1. Gonzaga is No. 2, as they return Drew Timme for a 12th season. Kentucky is their usual overrated No. 3. No. 4 is UCLA, which the Illini play against in the fourth game of the 2022-23 campaign.

Speaking of the Illini, you don’t have to drop too much further to find the Orange and Blue at the No. 14 spot on Katz’s list. The blub that Katz gives about Illinois says, “The Kofi Cockburn era is over and the Illini could be back to being flyin’ Illini.”

Illinois basketball has the firepower to be a top 14 team as Andy Katz predicts.

Katz kind of has the same mentality for Illinois that I was wanting to see this season. Kofi was a special player, but everything went through him last season. Now the Illini have to find a new identity, and we have the athletes to run the court well.

I believe the additions to the team outweigh the subtractions. Kofi, Alfonso Plummer, Trent Frazier, Jacob Grandison, Andre Curbelo, and Da’Monte Williams leaving the program will hurt the team. Adding Terrence Shannon Jr. Matthew Mayer, Dain Dainja as transfers, and Skyy Clark, Ty Rodgers, Jayden Epps, and Sencire Harris as four-star freshmen will help fill those voids.

Talent is definitely not going to be an issue for the Illini this upcoming season. I think the biggest issue is going to be how long will it take for the new cast to gel.

It is hard to throw a bunch of new players onto a court and expect them to look elite right away. We literally lost six out of our top seven scorers from last season. I think Brad Underwood did a great job replacing that talent, but I beg Illini Nation to give this team some time.

I think, by season’s end, Katz’s No. 14 ranking will be correct. But I fully expect a couple of bumps in the road early on. It is going to be a tough ask for Illinois to take down UCLA in game four. But, with that being said, we do have the firepower to do so. When the NCAA tournament rolls around, I fully expect that firepower to make a run in March.