Illini Sports are back on the map in a huge way, and the campus is bursting with excitement after Illinois’ huge Men’s Basketball Big Ten Tournament win. For the uninformed, Illinois Basketball has been on a tear this season with the most wins in the Big Ten, a number two ranking, and a season title under their belt. With their incredibly star-studded lineup, the Illini have been a joy to watch throughout the season.
With the regular season coming to a close, it’s now time for March’s biggest event: March Madness. 64 of the best basketball teams from around the country come to compete in a massive tournament to prove who the best team is from around the country. Illinois has come into this tournament with a win-heavy season resume which has granted them a #1 seed in the tournament.
Illinois’ last appearance in the tournament was in 2013, where they lost in the second round. This year, they are back for redemption. In this post, I’ll introduce you to the team and show you why Illini Basketball is so thrilling to watch this year.
Ayo Dosunmu – Ayo has been one of the best players in college basketball this season. His amazing athleticism and almost perfect shots have closed out many important games for the team. He has set numerous Illini Basketball records throughout the season and is one of few NCAA players to ever get two triple-doubles in one season. Unfortunately for us, he will most likely be declaring for the NBA Draft next year. He could have gone last year, but wanted to stay and help develop the program. Ayo is an incredible player and has brought new life to Illini Basketball.
Kofi Cockburn – I would have to guess that Kofi is probably the tallest person on campus as of right now, standing at a massive 7 feet tall. He is also an incredible athlete and controls all of the floor space underneath the basket. Using his size and strength, he plays amazing defense and scores a bunch of points per game with amazing dunks that only a 7-foot man could do. He will also probably be declaring for the NBA next year, so appreciate the two NBA caliber players we have right now while they’re here!
Andre Curbelo – The only Freshman on this list, Curbelo has really stepped up and shown he has what it takes to play in the college scene this year. Winning the award for 6th man of the year, Curbelo shows his skills all over the court. The skill he’s the best at is passing; he can get the ball to anyone at any time no matter where he is on the court. This creates such an exciting atmosphere, because you never know where the ball is going to go when it’s in his hands. Curbelo will definitely be a player to watch in the tournament as well as next year; he’s going to be a superstar level caliber player next year.
Trent Frazier – Trent is the old guard of this Illini Basketball team, as he is a senior who has been on the team for four years. He’s been through the highs and lows of the program and finally is able to show his skills on the national level. Frazier is a fantastic 3-point-shooter and can make shots from almost anywhere on the court. He showcased this skill with a huge buzzer beater in a game against Nebraska this February (that you can watch by clicking this link!).
While I only listed a few players, the best thing amount Illinois is their amazing lineup depth. No matter who is on the court, fans never have to feel stressed because everyone on the team is capable of the performance required from a top-two team. Some of the other players to keep an eye on the court for are Adam Miller, Coleman Hawkins, Da’Monte Williams, Giorgi Bezhanishvilli, and Jacob Grandison. All of them are great players that you will definitely see on the court during the tournament.
Teams to Watch out for / Illinois Schedule
With the March Madness tournament consisting of the 64 best teams in the country, the Fighting Illini will have to be ready to face some stiff competition. Their first matchup is on 3/19 against Drexel University from Pennsylvania. Even though they are a smaller school, they won the Colonial Athletic Conference and definitely earned their spot in the tournament.
From there, Illinois will have to play against Georgia Tech or Loyola Chicago, two teams that have had great seasons, on Sunday 3/21. After that, it’s anyone’s guess who they might face. Illinois’ region is stacked with teams that won their conferences, had unbelievable seasons, or have some of the best players in the sport right now. To make it to the end, Illinois is going to have to play some of the best basketball they have played all season.
Whether you are a new Illini, a prospective student, or an alumnus still hanging around the Admissions Blog, make sure you tune in to the games this weekend and throughout the rest of the tournament. The last time the Illini were this good was in 2005, when we made it to the Championship, and sadly, lost in the finals. This team really has a chance to win it all and I hope this post got you ready for the incredible games we are about to witness. To get a good look at the tournament as a whole and possibly fill out a bracket, you can visit this website.