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Illinois Basketball & “The Job’s Not Finished” Mindset

An NCAA Sweet Sixteen is on the menu for Brad Underwood and Illinois Basketball, thanks to a dominant performance in Omaha



Illinois Basketball & "The Job's Not Finished" Mindset
Credit: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Basketball & “The Job’s Not Finished” Mindset

An NCAA Sweet Sixteen is on the menu for Brad Underwood and Illinois Basketball, thanks to a dominant showing in the round of 32. The Illini trampled 11-seed Duquesne 89-63 in Omaha to punch their ticket to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. The first for Illinois in 18 years, as their last appearance was in 2005. The Dukes had a great run in 2024 to finalize the legendary career of Keith Dambrot. Who, formerly was the HS basketball coach of LeBron James at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s in Akron. However,  the Fighting Illini were too much for the rivals from Pittsburg. A key part of Illinois’ domination of the Dukes, was the smothering defense, and energy on the boards.

The Illini defense was +7 in rebounds, +2 in steals, as well as only allowing 32 points in the paint. A thumbs up effort for Brad Underwood, who has urged the Illini for better defensive play. Illinois Basketball needed key defenders like Coleman Hawkins to step up and have a big game on defense. Certainly, he nailed the task for coach Underwood and the orange and blue faithful in Omaha. Hawkins led all players in rebounds with 7, as well as snagging a big-man steal. The Sacramento native also posted 11 points on the night, 9 of which came from 3-point range for a 42.9% average. Not too shabby for the Illini Forward, who always brings big energy and passion to the floor for Illinois.

Colemans Comments

In the March Madness post game press conference, coach Brad Underwood, Forward Coleman Hawkins, and Guard Marcus Domask took to the podium for Illinois Basketball. Hawkins opened his comments from questioning with his mentality on the tournament. “I feel like seeds don’t matter as soon as the ball is tipped in the first round.” says Hawkins. “I feel like as soon as the ball is tipped, anybody can beat anybody, whatever team plays the hardest. It’s an imperfect game, and to try to base it off seeds is kinda bizarre.” quoted Coleman. “I feel like the seeding is out in the first round, and it’s game on.”

“The Job’s Not Finished”

Of course, in todays transfer portal world, Coleman is one of the few long term veterans at Illinois thus far for Underwood. The Cali kid has built a heck of a career, which will long time be remembered by fans in the Land of Lincoln. He continues to rise up NBA draft boards, as he sweetens his stock in March.

However, now is not the time to ponder. There is still work to do says the Illini 5-man, and the second weekend wont cut it for Hawkins. “Part of me wants to get really excited, and part of me really wants to keep the “jobs not finished mindset”, so it’s kind of in between right now”  says Hawkins in reference to the clinched sweet sixteen. “I’m really happy for everything we have accomplished this year, but to sit here and say I’m happy with making the sweet sixteen, is not what I want to say. I want to be happy with winning a National Championship.” says Hawkins.



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Kirkland is a go-to source for Illinois athletics news. He is the lead Football analyst at Armchair Illini and has been featured in top media publications like Bleacher Report, Yard Barker, Autograph, Newsbreak, CBS Sports and more.