The college basketball world is already looking ahead to the 2023-24 season, but did the Illinois basketball team make it to March Madness in the first bracketology?
After an up-and-down 2022-23 campaign, the Illini will have a brand new squad stepping onto the floor this year. Illinois lost a few guys to the transfer portal, including Skyy Clark, RJ Melendez, Jayden Epps, and Brandon Lieb.
Brad Underwood quickly filled those voids by picking up two key transfers in 6-foot-4 guard Justin Harmon, 6-foot-6 forward Marcus Domask, and 6-foot-7 wing Quincy Guerrier.
Harmon played at Utah Valley last season, where he led the team with 14 points per game while shooting 45%. Domask transferred from Southern Illinois, where he averaged team-highs of 16.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game.
Lastly, Guerrier is transferring in from Oregon. He averaged 9.0 points and 4.6 rebounds per game with the Ducks last season.
Where does this new-look Illinois basketball squad stand in the way-too-early Bracketology prediction?
ESPN college basketball analyst Joe Lunardi named Illinois the “Last Team In” when he released his offseason bracket prediction on Tuesday.
The Illini are matched up against 2023 Elite 8 finalist Kansas State in the First Four’s battle of 11 seeds. On the bright side for the Illini, the Wildcats would be without studs Keyontae Johnson and Markquis Nowell, who played out of his mind this past tournament.
The winner of this game goes on to face No. 6 UCLA. A likely date with No. 3 Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 awaits if the Illini are able to survive rounds one and two.
It’s only May and the Illini are already being underestimated. If Terrence Shannon Jr. or Coleman Hawkins withdraw their names from the 2023 NBA Draft, expect to see the Illini draw a higher seed in future predictions. If both return, one could argue that the Illini could be legitimate contenders.
Bottom line: It’s still very early.