5 huge questions for the Illinois basketball team against Michigan

Illinois basketball is at a bit of a crossroads when it comes to the 2023-24 season. On Tuesday, a wounded Michigan team comes to town, and this is a great chance for the Illini to get back on the wagon.

Illinois v Michigan State
Illinois v Michigan State / Rey Del Rio/GettyImages
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4. Do the Illini continue to go with a heavy Terrence Shannon Jr. option?

This slide kind of piggybacks off the previous two slides. Terrence Shannon Jr. has been a topic of discussion the past couple of weeks, as he returned six games ago after winning a court case to allow him to continue playing.

While Shannon awaits his preliminary hearing on a charge of rape, which will now happen well after the season, he has been inserted back into the lineup. This adjustment has not come easy, though.

That is why I want to see what Brad Underwood does with Shannon on Tuesday. Does Illinois continue to go with a heavy Shannon option on offense?

Shannon brings some great qualities to the basketball court. He can score in bunches, and his aggression to the rim is exciting. But the issue for the Illini has been finding the line between letting Shannon do whatever he wants and then doing what is best for the team.

Since coming back from the suspension, Shannon has had one quality game for the Illini. It was on the road against Ohio State when he put up 23 points on 7-of-17 shooting from the field and 3-of-7 from three-point range. In the other five games, he struggled and so did Illinois.

Shannon has now shot 9-of-40, 22.5%, from three-point range in the six games since his return. For some reason, Illinois is allowing the offense to go stagnant and letting Shannon just jack up shots. It isn’t working.

Illinois’ offense doesn’t move nearly as well with Shannon on the court. That doesn’t mean Shannon is a bad player, it just means there are chemistry and movement issues when he is in the mix. Also, if you really step back and look at the schedule, Illinois is lucky to have won four out of the six games since his return.

The Illini dropped two games on the road in the Big Ten. Nebraska took us to overtime in what could easily have been a loss. Illinois was also tied with Indiana with 1:29 left in Champaign. We are a couple of bad plays away from the Illini being 2-4 in the six games since Shannon’s return. Let’s take the foot off the gas pedal and get everyone involved in the game. When we are moving, we are at our best.