5 massive questions for the Illinois basketball team against Iowa

Coming off a horrible loss to Penn State, the Illinois basketball team needs to bounce back. There are a few questions that I have entering a big game against Iowa on Saturday.

Feb 17, 2024; College Park, Maryland, USA;  Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Brad Underwood looks
Feb 17, 2024; College Park, Maryland, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Brad Underwood looks / Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
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3. Does Brad Underwood play the matchups in the paint?

Throughout the entire 2023-24 season, Brad Underwood has stuck with his strategy of just run and gun. We are playing a style of basketball similar to the NBA where it is more of a solo game, and the team is up and down the court quite often.

One of the worst attributes about Underwood is the fact he is stubborn. He doesn’t come off his game plan to make adjustments. Against Iowa, I believe an adjustment needs to be made in the paint, though.

Let’s see if Underwood makes an adjustment at the No. 5 spot. Does Underwood play the matchups in the paint? Will he use Dain Dainja more against a traditional big man that Iowa has on the court?

Dainja has been an afterthought on the Illinois basketball team this season. He has received double-digit minutes in three out of the last 14 games. This has affected Dainja’s scoring and rebounding ability because he is not on the court. I believe Underwood wanting to play a more up-tempo game on the perimeter is why Dainja isn’t seeing the court.

Iowa is a different animal, though. The Hawkeyes have 6-foot-10 Moline, Illinois native Owen Freeman at the No. 5 spot. He is more of a traditional big man who won’t pull our big man out to the perimeter. Freeman is averaging 10.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per contest.

Illinois is going to start Coleman Hawkins at the No. 5, and while he has quick hands and can block shots decently well, Hawkins has little ability to actually stop a big man who is backing him down. This usually results in an easy bucket for the opponent.

My hope is that Underwood plays Dainja more on Saturday. He has proved he can be a solid option at the No. 5 spot, and I think the matchup calls for a more traditional big man.