5 huge questions for the Illinois basketball team against Ohio State

The Big Ten Tournament is underway, and Illinois tips off the run to a conference crown against the Ohio State Buckeyes on Friday.
Feb 1, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Brad Underwood motions from
Feb 1, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Brad Underwood motions from / Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA
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2. Are big minutes coming from Dain Dainja?

Throughout the history of the Illinois basketball program, there have been athletes who come off the bench and are fan favorites. The Illini have one of those players right now in Dain Dainja.

When Dainja sees the floor, it is a bit of a shock to the system. Without him, Illinois plays a perimeter game that involves a lot of dribbling and stretching the floor. With him on the court, the Illini play a more traditional bang-in-the-paint style of basketball.

I want to see if Dainja can continue making a big impact on the Illinois box score. Does Dainja get big minutes in the Ohio State game?

Dainja is currently on his best stretch of basketball this season. It appeared he lost the trust of the coaching staff midway through the year, but over the last five games, he has risen from the dead.

In the last five games alone, Dainja is averaging 13 minutes per game and putting up 6.8 points and 4.4 rebounds while on the court. He has been a great asset to this team, and this production included a win last Sunday over Iowa where he put up nine points, five rebounds, and two blocks in 15 minutes of action.

Dainja did give Illinois big minutes in the last game against Ohio State too. He logged 11 minutes in that game and put up seven points, five rebounds, and one block on 3-of-5 shooting from the floor.

I think Dainja is an important piece of the puzzle. Just when teams think they figure out what Illinois is going to do, we throw out a traditional big man with great feet. I can’t wait to see what Dainja does against the Buckeyes.