Illinois Basketball: 5 observations from the Illini win over Missouri

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5. Illinois goes seven-deep on the roster

Now that we are 11 games into the season, you can get a better idea of what Brad Underwood is thinking as far as rotations and roster construction.

At one time earlier this season, I thought there was a chance Underwood would use his freshmen more and go nine or 10 deep on the bench. I was wrong.

Underwood has really narrowed his rotations. Against Missouri, he showed that Illinois isn’t a nine or 10-player deep team. We are going with our five starters and then pretty much just bringing two players off the bench.

You can bet that Terrence Shannon jr., Ty Rodgers, Marcus Domask, Coleman Hawkins, and Quincy Guerrier are going to start the rest of the season. This starting five has worked well together to start the year, and I think they have a chance to do some special things this season.

Illinois’ bench is pretty much limited to just Justin Harmon and Luke Goode now. I am a bit shocked that Dain Dainja has fallen out of the rotation. I thought he would have had a bigger role in 2023-24. Dainja only played three minutes against Missouri.

Now, I know the Tigers have a small team, so this was probably more of a matchup situation, but the minutes reduction has been a trend with Dainja. He has averaged eight minutes per game in the last five contests. To me, he clearly has fallen out of the rotation.

Even when Niccolo Moretti gets back on the court, I am not sure he sees much playing time. I believe Underwood is comfortable with going seven players deep, and riding these seven as far as we can go in March.

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