Illinois basketball statistical comparison to the last 5 NCAA tournament winners

The NCAA tournament is on the horizon, and Illinois has a good team this season. But how do the Illini compare to past champions?
Mar 10, 2024; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Coleman Hawkins (33) shoots the
Mar 10, 2024; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Coleman Hawkins (33) shoots the / Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
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Illinois basketball will once again hear our name called on Selection Sunday, but will this be the year we win the elusive national championship?

This is the best Illini squad I have seen since the national title run back in 2004-05. That talent needs to translate in March, though. We haven't been to the Sweet 16 since 2004-05, but honestly, an NCAA tournament run ending in the Sweet 16 would still be a disappointment.

Can Illinois make that deep run, though? The last five national title winners all had great teams, but how do the Illini compare to those squads?

Illinois basketball statistical comparison to the last 5 NCAA tournament winners

2023-24 Illinois vs 2022-23 UConn Huskies

The UConn Huskies had a great run to the NCAA crown last season, and they had a similar record to Illinois, as they finished 24-7 in the regular season and 13-7 in Big East play. But what are the biggest similarities and differences between Illinois and that 2023 UConn squad?

  • Biggest Statistical Similarity – Shooting

This is a much better shooting Illinois basketball team than last season. Last year, we shot 45.1% from the field, 30.9% from three-point range, and 68.0% from the free throw line. The improved shooting this season is why we are looking at a top-four seed in the NCAA tournament.

Illinois is shooting 47.1% from the field in 2023-24. That is actually slightly better than UConn’s 46.0% last season. It is honestly the consistency within the Illini program that has us shooting at a solid clip. Our top three scorers are shooting 46.9%, 46.0%, and 46.0%, respectively. And then you have Quincy Guerrier at No. 4 shooting 48.7%.

The Illini are nearly identical to UConn in three-point shooting. Last season, the Huskies knocked down 35.7% of their three-pointers en route to a national title. Illinois is hitting 35.0% from beyond the three-point arc this season. The improved team three-point shooting has a lot to do with Terrence Shannon Jr. and Coleman Hawkins improving their shooting. Shannon shot 32.1% and Hawkins shot 28.0% from three-point range last season. This season, Shannon is up to 34.9% and Hawkins is at 39.2%.

Illinois and UConn are pretty equal when it comes to free throw shooting too. The Illini are hitting 74.1% from the charity stripe while UConn was at 75.4% last season. Again, Hawkins has a big hand in this, as he is shooting 81.2% from the free throw line compared to 61.4% last season.

  • Biggest Statistical Difference – Assists

While Illinois is able to put up over five more points per game than the 2023 national champion UConn Huskies, we score points in a different style.

Illinois doesn’t move the ball nearly as well as UConn did last season. The Illini are only averaging 12.8 assists per game this season. That is nearly five fewer assists than the Huskies averaged last season, which was 17.3 assists per game.

UConn played more team basketball on their national title run. Two players averaged 4.7 assists per game for the Huskies, and they created looks for their teammates. That isn’t Illinois’ style, though.

The Illini play more of an NBA style with more isolation than anything. That is why you don’t see as many assists. You have someone like Marcus Domask or Hawkins backing his man down in the paint. You also have someone like Shannon taking his man off the dribble. Illinois can put up a lot of points playing like this, but if a team shuts one of the players down, we could struggle at times without ball movement.

2023-24 Illinois vs 2022-23 UConn Statistics

  • Points – Illinois 83.9, UConn 78.5
  • Points Allowed – Illinois 72.9, UConn 64.1
  • Rebounds – Illinois 41.4, UConn 39.0
  • Assists – Illinois 12.8, UConn 17.3
  • Steals – Illinois 4.4, UConn 6.5
  • Blocks – Illinois 3.8, UConn 4.9
  • Turnovers – Illinois 10.9, UConn 12.9
  • FG% - Illinois 47.1%, UConn 46.0%
  • 3P% - Illinois 35.0%, UConn 35.7%
  • FT% - Illinois 74.1%, UConn 75.4%