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What Illinois Basketball Can Learn From 2023 National Champions



What Illinois Basketball Can Learn From 2023 National Champions

What Illinois Basketball Can Learn From 2023 National Champions

Illinois basketball had a valiant effort against the Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey Arena. The Illini started slow, however, they kept fighting to make the game a one-possession game toward the end. Though a loss is a loss, there are some key takeaways from the game. Marcus Domask continues to emerge as one of the best perimeter players in the conference and Quincy Guerrier is starting to show a steady dose of production. Additionally, Matt Painter and Purdue seemed to expose the biggest weakness for Illinois Basketball. Painter countered the “Booty ball” that Illinois has been playing by asking Zach Edey to guard Ty Rodgers. Doing so took Rodgers out of the game completely and clogged the paint to throw the rest of the Illini off their kilter. Though fans may not realize it, the fact that Ty Rodgers remains a non-factor in big-time games is rather problematic.

Ty Rodgers is being forced to play the point guard position, however, he barely plays like it. Rodgers is essentially bringing the ball up the court and handing it off to Marcus Domask, Coleman Hawkins, and Terrence Shannon Jr so that they can initiate the offense.  Rodgers just cannot score much outside of layups, dunks, and the occasional floater. He essentially is not even looking at the basket when he catches it on the perimeter. That is a problem.

Ant Wright put up a strong explanation as to why this is an issue, however, I do see a way that Illinois can counter.

2023 National Champions had a similar issue.

Remember the UCONN Huskies last year? The national champions had a player that was eerily similar to Ty Rodgers. Andre Jackson Jr. Jackson Jr was also a 6 foot 6 wing/guard with elite athleticism and some point guard skills. Like Ty Rodgers, Jackson Jr had zero jump shot during the 2022-2023 season. Teams started to catch on, and the UCONN Huskies even dropped five of six games. Dan Hurley made a brilliant coaching change to counter this and eventually, UConn bottled this momentum up into a national championship. Brad Underwood needs to take advantage of Ty Rodgers’ elite athleticism and length. When teams leave him, Rodgers needs to cut to the basket or free throw line ready to make a read. 

Andre Jackson averaged 6.7 ppg, 6.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists.

With his size and athleticism, he could be a lob threat and can also make the right pass if the lob is not there due to his above-average passing skills. I want to see Ty Rodgers be the guy who runs out in transition so that he can get himself some easy baskets. Illinois. Check the video below in which Gonzaga tried to put Drew Timme on Andre Jackson Jr . Timme was literally “doinking” Andre Jackson, and Dan Hurley put Jackson in the perfect spots on the floor so that the game would not become 5 on 4. Jackson was frequently in the short corner of the court ready to catch a lob or make a pass.

Though Zach Edey is kind of an anomaly in all aspects, teams will put Ty Rodgers in the same situation. If Brad Underwood wants to counter, he better take a look at Andre Jackson Jr’s season with the UConn Huskies.


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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.