Illinois basketball still not sniffing way-to-early top 25 for the 2024-25 season

It is extremely early to be talking about rankings, but the Illinois basketball team still isn't in the conversation for the way-too-early top 25 for next season.
Morehead State v Illinois
Morehead State v Illinois / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

Illinois basketball went through a massive transition this offseason, but the great work by Brad Underwood isn’t paying off in some eyes.

It is hard to imagine a team rebounding from losing all but two scholarship players year-to-year. That is what is happening with the Illini. Only two holdovers from the 2023-24 campaign, Ty Rodgers and Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn, are coming back to Champaign for another season.

That is a ton of talent to lose from an Elite 8 squad that finished the season No. 6 in the country. Jeff Borzello agrees with that notion, and I figure that is why he left Illinois off his way-too-early top 25 for next season.

The ESPN college basketball writer published his projected top 25 for the 2024-25 campaign back on July 1. He has four Big Ten teams making the top 25, which included Purdue at No. 16, Indiana at No. 18, UCLA at No. 24, and Rutgers at No. 25. He also has Oregon and Maryland “next in line” to be in the top 25. Which team didn’t make the conversation?


Nowhere will you find the Orange and Blue. When you say a team lost all but two players from the year prior, not starting in the top 25 seems obvious. But if you look at what Illinois added, we should be, at minimum, in the conversation to be in the top 25.

The Illinois basketball program didn’t rebuild, we reloaded for the 2024-25 season

If Underwood would have sat back and pulled in mediocre talent from the transfer portal and secured a few top 100 recruits, then I completely understand not being included in the conversation for the top 25. But that didn’t happen at all. I would argue Illinois had one of the best offseasons in program history.

Yes, we lost key veterans like Terrence Shannon Jr. and Marcus Domask, but Illinois brought in experienced talent to help fill those voids.

Kylan Boswell is a multi-year starter for Arizona, and he is a four-star transfer. Tre White has started his first two seasons for USC and Louisville, and he enters as a four-star transfer.

Illinois also pulled in Ben Humrichous, a four-star sharpshooter with a great 6-foot-9 size. Let’s not forget about Carey Booth and Jake Davis. Both players had great freshmen seasons. Booth enters as a four-star transfer and Davis is a high three-star transfer.

Underwood’s haul of freshmen isn’t a normal group either. Will Riley, a five-star, and Kasparas Jakucionis, an elite Euro freshman, are both projected as first-round NBA Draft picks in 2025.

I haven't even included the high-four-star Morez Johnson Jr. who is one of the best big men in the country and won the Illinois Mr. Basketball award. He will be joined by fellow big men Tomislav Ivisic and Jason Jakstys.

Most of these players will be household names within the next year. Sure, Illinois lost a ton of talent, but Underwood and his coaching staff replaced that talent with a great haul of players.

Illinois’ roster for the 2024-25 campaign will consist of (1) 5-star, (6) 4-star, (3) 3-star, and (2) unranked because they’re Euro players.

It is absurd that Illinois basketball isn’t in the conversation for the top 25. I imagine, when the season tips off, this program is going to shock some people. We are laced with talent, and it should be a fun watch this season.

Next. Improved talent translating to more wins for the Illinois basketball program. Improved talent translating to more wins for the Illinois basketball program. dark