The Fighting Illini Men’s Basketball program opens the season tomorrow with North Carolina A&T. If that team sounds familiar, that is because they were in Champaign less than a year ago. That is another pregame that will come tonight, or tomorrow morning since we have three Illini games to cover through the Thanksgiving weekend, all of the Illini Men’s Basketball games can be heard right here on WPXN.
What more is there to prove this season for the Illini? They have started the season in the preseason polls at #8, and were riding the hot hand from last season before the cancellation of the Big Ten Tournament, and eventually the March Madness Tournament. The Illini are returning a majority of the roster, minus Andres Feliz. Feliz will be missed this season with his ability to create looks at the rim, find the open man on the kick-out pass, and his ability to grab rebounds. The Illini are however returning 4 of the starting five in Ayo Dosunmu, Trent Fraizer, Damonte Williams, and Kofi Cockburn. We know at least two of them will start in the first game tomorrow.
With the return of four of the starters and the loss of Feliz, the Illini added major talent in the backcourt during the recruiting season in Adam Miller and Andre Curbelo. When it comes to the fifth starter, there is a big question. I know I can’t guess what Coach Brad Underwood will roll out tomorrow, my guess is Gorgi in the last spot, but it could be Adam Miller if he decides to run the small ball style of play.
The Illini have national recognition for the first time since the 2005 season when the Illini lost the National Championship game against the North Carolina Tar Heels. There will be a lot of eyes on the team this year, but from what I have heard from Coach Underwood and the rest of the players, they are ready. Followed by the North Carolina A&T game tomorrow afternoon, Chicago State, and Ohio will conclude the MTE(multi-team-event) and head into the Jimmie V Classic with #2 Baylor lurking.
I have high expectations for the Illini to shine on all the national stages that will be set for them, as we all do. The Big Ten season will not be a walk in the park either, and it never is. The Big Ten is the best basketball conference in the NCAA(look at the preseason rankings) with having 7 total teams in the Top 25. There will be some losses in there that will make us scratch our heads, but there will also be big-time wins. This is the season that we as media, and fans anticipated in the Brad Underwood hiring, making this the third program he has turned around, got back on track in the national spotlight.
The Illini are primed to have one of their best seasons in team history and I am putting them up there in the Flyin’ Illini and the 2005 NCAA runner-up team. The season gets underway tomorrow at 1 pm, pregame for tomorrow will come tomorrow morning. Follow along with me, and the station on wpxnradio.com, my Twitter @calefleming10, and the stations' Twitter @1049wpxn.