Illinois Basketball: 5 big questions for the Illini against Purdue

Dec 2, 2023; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Luke Goode (10) celebrates
Dec 2, 2023; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Luke Goode (10) celebrates / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
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Illinois basketball heads to West Lafayette to take on the No. 1 ranked Purdue Boilermakers on Friday night.

This is arguably the biggest game of the 2023-24 college basketball season. Two basketball giants are matching up in what could end up being a foreshadowing for the Big Ten crown.

The Illini have a tough test ahead of them. Purdue is a great team with one of the best players we have ever seen. So, there are some questions I have entering this big matchup.

Here are five big questions for the Illinois basketball team against Purdue

1. What does Illinois do with Zach Edey?

Purdue has one of the most dominant players I have ever seen play the game of basketball. Zach Edey is a force that is extremely hard to stop.

Illinois does not have a big man like Kofi Cockburn anymore either. Purdue has had a force in the paint for years, but the Illini could always combat that big man with our own. That isn’t the case now, though.

So, on Friday night, what does Illinois do with the Boilermakers’ big man?

Well, the first thought was to throw Dain Dainja at Edey. Fighting size with somewhat size seems like the default. But that did not work out so well last season. Dainja matched up against Edey and only played 17 minutes because he got in foul trouble. He finished the game with seven points, two rebounds, one block, and four fouls.

My next thought is for Coleman Hawkins to play the No. 5 spot most of the night. While Edey might get his own on the offensive end of the court, I think he struggles to cover Hawkins.

Hawkins can step out and shoot from three-point range. This will pull Edey from the paint, enabling the Illinois guards to drive and get cleaner looks. I think that is how you attack the Purdue big man from the Illini offensive perspective.

Edey is the best player in basketball for a reason. Illinois will have to pull him out of the paint on offense, and we need to make sure to play solid perimeter defense. That is the key to beating the Boilermakers.