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Illinois Basketball: Top 10 In KenPom Adjusted Defense



Illinois Basketball: Top 10 In KenPom Adjusted Defense
Dec 2, 2023; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Brad Underwood reacts in front of an offical during the first half against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Jersey Mike's Arena. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Basketball: Top 10 In KenPom Adjusted Defense

Illinois Basketball has had a solid start to their season. Brad Underwood and his staff made it a priority to become older and more experienced. So far, that mission has paid off. Illinois showed well against Kansas in an exhibition. They had chances to beat Marquette at home, and they played a dominant style on the road against Rutgers. Despite this, Illinois Basketball is about to face the gauntlet of their non-conference schedule. This week, they travel to Madison Square Garden to play Florida Atlantic. Afterward, they travel to Knoxville to play Tennessee on the road. The college basketball world is going to learn a lot about Illinois Basketball in the next five days.

Through their first 7 games, Illinois Basketball sits at an impressive spot in the Kenpom rankings.

Top 16 teams overall, top 8 defensively

Illinois Basketball sits at number 16 in the Kenpom rankings. I understand that rankings do not mean much, particularly at this point in the season. However, Illinois has graded out pretty well defensively. They sit at number 8, and some stats that were shown during the Rutgers game further emphasize the point. In the entire NCAA, Illinois ranks number 1 in opponent field goal percentage and defensive rebounds per game. They rank 7th overall in opponent points per game. Brad Underwood and his squad struggled last year because we were never able to find out what kind of identity his team owned.

Through 7 games, Brad Underwood has done a fabulous job of identifying an identity early. Though they do not have a true point guard, Illinois Basketball wheels out four athletic 6 foot 6 to 6 foot 7 wings. All of them are anchored by Coleman Hawkins. Hawkins can switch 1 through 5 and is arguably the best ball-handler of the bunch. Though this may lead to some serious issues on the offensive side, Illinois has the opportunity to consistently give opponents fits on the defensive end.

Length and Athleticism

Ty Rodgers, Terrence Shannon, and Quincy Guerrier are all super long and athletic. Their defensive versatility will bode them well in conference play. Terrence Shannon Jr needs to consistently bring his A-game on both sides of the ball. If he can be supplemented by Marcus Domask as the second offensive option, Illinois Basketball will have a successful winning season.



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Alex is the Owner of, your go-to source for in depth coverage of the Illinois Fighting Illini. Alex is also the lead content creator and lead editor of all articles on Armchair Illini. He has had articles featured in top media publications like Bleacher Report, YardBarker, Verbal Commits, CBS Sports and more.