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3 Observations From Illinois-Michigan State.



3 Observations from Illinois-Michigan State:

The Spread has revived Illinois.

Look, I was the first one to call madness when Brad Underwood first back brought the spread offense. In the first two years of Underwood’s Illinois career, the spread offense proved to be robotic and just an overly complex fit for a very limited Illinois roster. The spread offense requires versatility and player’s with good feel for the game. No disrespect to guys like Aaron Jordan, Kipper Nichols or Michael Finke, but it simply did not work. Surprisingly, this year’s team fits well with the spread. Granted, they do not run the set often, but having a base offense has gotten this team into a strong habit.

The ball movement has been absolutely awesome to see after weeks of Matt Mayer and Coleman Hawkins launching step back 3′s with the shot block running down. In the past 3 games, Illinois has shown outstanding ball movement whenever the opposing team makes a run. That is a pleasant sight for all Illini fans.

Less is more for Illinois.

To start the season, Illinois would frequently throw out a full court press. In the exhibition game against Quincy, they were honestly doing it most of the game. I hate to pat myself on the back, but I also hated this. I mean, what team to you see pressing the entire game outside of 2010 West Virginia? For me, this was a poor decision with a young squad. Yes, the team is athletic and long. Yes, if Sencire Harris did not spearhead the press against UCLA we probably would have lost. But it made things way too complicated. Additionally, Illinois would frequently have turnovers on the other side of the ball in their iso-heavy offense. This lead to many easy baskets, or better known as “pick sixes”, for the opponent. Illinois had 5 turnovers against Michigan State. Yeah, keep the ball in your hands.

Brad Underwood is not insane

No, not referring to his sideline outbursts. That will always be Brad. Brad is very in tune with reality. Obviously, his initial season plan was not panning out. Pressing on defense lead to this team being sped up, and playing five out without a base offense lead to many iso-shots and miscommunications. Brad noticed this, and changed the trajectory of the season. Reminder that a little less than two weeks ago, Illinois got ran off the court by Northwestern.

Now? They are right back in the thick of things in the Big Ten race. Lots of credit should go to the head man. This is probably the third time that a Brad Underwood team had a mediocre December and came out of the new year with ferocity. Let’s hope they keep it up.


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.