4. Paint defense is a massive weakness for Illinois
There are always a handful of issues with every team in college basketball. I mean, they are college players, so they will have some issues in their game.
But for Illinois, there is one glaring issue in my eyes. We can’t play defense in the paint. When an opposing big man gets the ball within 10 feet of the basket, they are getting essentially whatever they want.
The bad paint play isn’t for a lack of trying. Illinois tries to be good at paint defense, but we just aren’t. It really stands out when Coleman Hawkins is playing the role of a traditional big man. He is matching up against the opposing team’s big man, and it usually ends up with a bucket by the opposing team.
Hawkins is a big guy, but he gets pushed around in the paint in every game. Against Indiana, he couldn’t handle their forwards. Hawkins tried to hold his ground, but Indiana would be able to back him down for an easy layup.
The only other option for Illinois at the No. 5 spot is Dain Dainja. The problem with Dainja is that Brad Underwood for some reason doesn’t want to play him. He played five minutes against the Hoosiers and has double-digit minutes in one game out of the past eight contests.
With Underwood not wanting to play Dainja, Illinois is going to have to ride with Hawkins at the No. 5 spot when opposing teams want to bang around in the paint. This will continue to happen and unless something drastic changes, it will continue to be a weakness for the Illini.