5 massive observations from the Illinois basketball win over Duquesne

It has been nearly 20 years, but the Illinois basketball team is heading back to the Sweet 16.
Mar 23, 2024; Omaha, NE, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Marcus Domask (3) claps after the
Mar 23, 2024; Omaha, NE, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Marcus Domask (3) claps after the / Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports
4 of 5

4. Terrence Shannon Jr. has cemented himself as one of the greatest Illini ever

There have been a lot of great players come through the Illinois basketball program. Just in my lifetime, I have had the privilege to see players like Frank Williams, Deron Williams, Dee Brown, and Ayo Dosunmu.

Great Illinois basketball players don’t come around often. We have had some good ones, but there was about a 15-year gap between great players in the mid-2000s through the 2010s.

Ayo broke that drought of great players. He was a great talent, and if the 2020 NCAA tournament wasn't canceled, that experience might have helped propel Illinois further in the 2021 NCAA tournament.

As I said, greatness doesn’t come around often, but I believe Illinois has another player I can call one of the greatest Illini ever. That player is Terrence Shannon Jr.

Shannon was an All-American this season, and he helped propel Illinois to a No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. We scorched our way to the championship game, where we ended up beating Wisconsin to take home the crown.

Entering the NCAA tournament as a No. 3 seed, Illinois hadn’t seen success in the Big Dance in decades. Even our success as a No. 3 seed wasn’t great, with the last two times resulting in a second-round exit and a first-round upset at the hands of No. 14 Austin Peay.

Led by Shannon, Illinois avoided the first-round upset and it wasn’t even close. On Saturday, the same could be said. The Illini hadn’t made the Sweet 16 since 2005. Shannon was four years old.

Illinois cruised to the round of 32 win on Saturday against the Dukes. This was the second straight double-digit NCAA tournament win for the Illini, and it was on the back of Shannon’s greatness.

Through the first two games, Shannon is averaging 28 points, four assists, three rebounds, two steals, and one block while shooting 19-of-30, 63.3%, from the field and 5-of-14, 35.7%, from three-point range.

In this season alone, Illinois now has 28 wins, a Big Ten Tournament crown, and we have advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time in nearly 20 years. Shannon is elevating Illinois while putting up incredible numbers. He has easily cemented himself as one of the greatest players in program history.