Illinois basketball enters the 2022-23 campaign extremely underrated.
The last time we saw the Illini, we were battling for a second-round elimination against the Houston Cougars. Even though the Cougars shouldn’t have been seeded No. 5, it was still tough to watch Illinois fall in the second round for the second straight postseason.
We enter the new year with a renewed team. Yes, there are a lot of pieces missing from this 2021-22 team, but the Illini still have some serious talent with experience. However, some national pundits don’t think Illinois is one of the best teams in the nation.
On Thursday, Gary Parrish of CBS Sports released his top 25 for the upcoming season. These rankings were released due to Kylan Boswell’s reclassification to be eligible for the 2022-23 campaign. That in itself hurts a little considering Illinois was in the running for Boswell.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL RANKINGS: 2022-23 @CBSSports The preseason Top 25 and 1 have been updated to reflect recent developments.
2. North Carolina
— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) July 8, 2022
There are several Big Ten teams in Parrish’s top 25. Indiana is the No. 1 Big Ten program, coming in at No. 17 in the nation. Michigan is next at No. 19. No. 22 Purdue, No. 24 Ohio State and No. 25 Michigan State round out the top 25.
One notable team missing from the top 25 is Illinois. Parrish kept the Illini out of the top 25. He actually kept us out of the top 26 because he gives fans an extra team in the rankings. His No. 26 team in the nation is the St. Louis Billikens. THE BILLICENS!
Illinois basketball has reloaded and will shock the world with its talent.
I know I sound like Homer. It’s hard to shake my fist in frustration and write at the same time. But there are logical reasons for Illinois to be in the top 25.
Yes, we lost a lot of talent. The Illini have just four returning scholarship players from last year’s team. But you can’t just look at what we’ve lost. You should look at how we reloaded.
Terrence Shannon Jr. and Matthew Meyer transferred to the Illinois program. Meyer has won a national title in recent years, and Shannon has made multiple NCAA tournament appearances. Both have more postseason experience than any Illinois player since Dee Brown donned the orange and blue.
Illinois brought in a top 10 recruiting class this season. Sky Clark should lead the way as he is the highest rated point guard the Illini have had since, yes, Dee Brown. Ty Rogers is a great wing player who just competed against some of the best high school players in the nation to win a gold medal for the U18 Team USA program.
Let’s not forget about the good pieces Illinois has coming back. Luke Goode, RJ Melendez and Coleman Hawkins have postseason experience and all know Brad Underwood’s plans. They are the glue that will bring the transfer newcomers and incoming freshmen together.
Illinois’ starting lineup will be loaded with talent. #1 Clark (4 stars), #2 Shannon (4 stars), #3 Melendez (4 stars), #4 Meyer (4 stars) and #5 Hawkins (3 stars) is the starting lineup I think is the best for Illinois. The bench will look something like; Goode (4-star), Dain Dainja (4-star), Ty Rodgers (4-star), Jayden Epps (4-star), Sencire Harris (4-star) and Zacharie Perrin (NR).
Think about that for a second. Illinois could easily go 11 deep every night. Of the 11 players in the rotation, only two are not former four-star recruits. One is Hawkins, who might be one of the best of the bunch. The other, Perrin, is not yet ranked as he is overseas.
Illinois is sorted. People better start realizing this fact. This is a team that will not only finish in the top 25, but should be a contender to reach the top of the college game.