Illinois Basketball: 5 observations from the Illini win over Michigan

Jan 18, 2024; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA;  Illinois Fighting Illini forward Coleman Hawkins (33)
Jan 18, 2024; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Coleman Hawkins (33) / Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
2 of 5

2. It was nice to see Niccolo Moretti back in action

Illinois has essentially been going with a six-man rotation for much of the past month or so. This lack of depth hasn't really hurt the program, but on Thursday night, we got deeper.

Niccolo Moretti hasn’t played a game since November 19 against Southern. It was nearly two months to the day that he finally got back on the court against Michigan.

I wasn’t expecting big numbers out of Moretti in his first game back. Shoot, who knows how much Brad Underwood was actually going to play the kid? I mean, he doesn’t exactly look to the freshmen for minutes, so it wouldn’t have shocked me to barely see Moretti, if at all.

Moretti didn’t just play against Michigan, he played early and meaningful minutes. He subbed in in the first half and ended up playing six minutes in the game. Moretti finished with two points on 1-of-2 shooting from the floor.

The impact of the talented point guard wasn’t huge, but seeing him play was big for the program. He gives us another solid body off the bench, especially at a position that is needed in point guard.

Moretti also brings something to the court that is much-needed too. He brings energy. When he had the ball on Thursday night, you could feel the energy coming off of him. Moretti was ready to run circles around the Michigan defense. He wanted to be active. That is what I love.

I would imagine Moretti will continue to get decent playing time for the rest of the season. I would guess somewhere between 8-12 minutes each game. This kid is the future of the Illinois basketball program at point guard, and I am excited about that future.