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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2023-24 Illinois vs 2021-22 Kansas Jayhawks

While Kansas isn’t looking so good this season, just two years ago they tore through their side of the bracket en route to a national championship. The Jayhawks ended up taking down No. 8 North Carolina in the title game, clipping the Tar Heels by three points, 72-69.

  • Biggest Statistical Similarity – Shooting

Much like with UConn, Illinois’ biggest similarity to the 2022 national champion Kansas team is shooting. Terrence Shannon Jr., Marcus Domask, Coleman Hawkins, and Quincy Guerrier are the top four scorers on the team, and they all shoot at least 46.0% from the field. For the season, Illinois is shooting 47.1% from the field, and this is slightly lower than Kansas’ 48.1% in 2021-22.

Illinois is right there with Kansas in three-point shooting, though. The Illini are hitting 35.0% of three-pointers this season, and that Kansas national title-winning team shot 35.5%. Again, Shannon and Hawkins improving their three-point efficiency helps greatly in this area.

When it comes to free throw shooting, Illinois is a little better than that 2021-22 Kansas squad. We are shooting 74.1% from the free throw line this season while Kansas only hit 72.4% from the charity stripe.

  • Biggest Statistical Difference – Scoring

The biggest statistical difference that stands out to me is scoring. Illinois is a prolific scoring team this season.

Illinois is currently averaging 83.9 points per game. That is 5.3 points per game more than the 2021-22 Kansas squad. I wanted to see why Illinois was averaging more points, and I believe it is due to free throw shooting.

Kansas averaged 71.5 possessions per game during their national title run, and Illinois is averaging 72.6 possessions per game this season. So, that is about even. When I look at free throws, the Illini were able to get to the charity stripe more often and convert more attempts.

This season, Illinois makes an average of 17 free throws per game. In 2021-22, Kansas only made 13.9 free throws per game. The ability to get to the free throw line, specifically Terrence Shannon Jr., has been huge for the Illini.

2023-24 Illinois vs 2021-22 Kansas Statistics

  • Points – Illinois 83.9, Kansas 78.6
  • Points Allowed – Illinois 72.9, Kansas 67.3
  • Rebounds – Illinois 41.4, Kansas 37.4
  • Assists – Illinois 12.8, Kansas 15.4
  • Steals – Illinois 4.4, Kansas 6.4
  • Blocks – Illinois 3.8, Kansas 4.1
  • Turnovers – Illinois 10.9, Kansas 12.5
  • FG% - Illinois 47.1%, Kansas 48.1%
  • 3P% - Illinois 35.0%, Kansas 35.5%
  • FT% - Illinois 74.1%, Kansas 72.4%