Illinois basketball doesn't lack experience entering the 2024 NCAA tournament

The run the Illinois basketball team has been on the past few week is quite impressive. At the end of the day, hopefully experience wins out.
Mar 15, 2024; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Marcus Domask (3) works around
Mar 15, 2024; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Marcus Domask (3) works around / Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois basketball is entering the 2024 NCAA tournament with a lot of experience.

When I say experience, I mean it in two ways. The first is the fact the Illini have player experience. We have one of the oldest rosters in college basketball.

Our leaders, Terrence Shannon Jr. and Marcus Domask are both fifth-year players. Quincy Guerrier and Justin Harmon are also fifth-year players. That means four out of the top six players on the Illinois roster are fifth-year guys.

Coleman Hawkins, our third-leading scorer, is a regular senior. On top of that, only two players on the Illinois roster haven’t played an NCAA tournament game. Domask and Harmon are those two players, and they have NIT experience at least.

The second way I mean experience is by which teams Illinois played this season that made the NCAA tournament.

Illinois enters the postseason with a lot of experience against NCAA tournament teams. If you count them out, the Illini played a total of 10 NCAA tournament teams this season. Five of those tournament teams were in the non-conference as well.

Illinois basketball has struggled against the top-seeded NCAA tournament teams

15 out of the 34 games Illinois played this season were against NCAA tournament competition. That is 44.1% of the games we played in 2023-24.

Illinois saw a lot of success against the mid and low-tier teams. We were 9-2 against NCAA tournament teams who have a No. 5 seed or worse. That includes beating No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 8 Nebraska twice. Illinois also beat No. 8 Florida Atlantic, No. 14 Colgate, and No. 14 Oakland.

The Illini losses to teams who are No. 5 or worse in the NCAA tournament were Big Ten opponents. We split the season series with both No. 9 Northwestern and No. 9 Michigan State.

While the record against teams seeded No. 5 or worse was good, when Illinois played teams that are seeded No. 4 or better, we lost those games.

Illinois was 0-4 against No. 4 or better seeds this season. We got swept by No. 1 Purdue this year, and I am glad Wisconsin was able to beat them in the semifinal of the Big Ten Tournament. No. 2 Marquette and No. 2 Tennessee were able to clip us early in the non-conference. Both were close games, though.

There is a lot of experience in the Illinois camp entering the 2024 NCAA tournament. We have the experience from players and on the schedule, so let’s take that and make a deep run into March.