Illinois basketball is one of the most intriguing teams in the NCAA this year. They may have the highest ceiling of the big ten, but they haven’t reached it yet. They are currently ranked 8th in KenPom’s NCAA rankings, 14th in the AP survey and 7th in the NCAA NET rankings. It’s a good team, but can it now compete with teams like Baylor, Gonzaga or even Michigan? They haven’t shown it yet, but if they fix the following problems, they will be a great team.

Turn the ball over to

Illinois ranks 266th in college basketball in turnover margin (opponents’ turnovers against them) at -2.2. This is clearly not ideal. They tend to push, but they also tend to throw the ball carelessly. Part of the problem was Ayo Dosunmu, who seemed to have the ball in his hands when he had it, within reason. The other major player is undoubtedly one of the Big Ten’s most exciting freshmen: André Curbelo. He has the ability to demonstrate such skills:

But sometimes he has these shortcomings:

He’s also very sneaky.

Dosunmu will clean up his act. He hasn’t made more than three rotations per game in the last two years. So he’ll have to return to this level of ball security if Illini is going to face opponents like Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin or Ohio State. The goalies will get rid of the ball and the Illinis’ pace will allow them to make changes from time to time, but they will have to limit them if they want to reach the final four.

Free-throw shot

Illinois shot 68.7 percent from the free-throw line, which is terrible for a team that should be contending for the title. Other than Dosunmu, Curbelo and Trent Fraser, all other players didn’t even get 70% off the line. When it comes to attacking, opponents will be up against Kofi Cockburn, Da’Monte Williams or Giorgi Bezhanishvili, all three of whom shoot less well than last year (Cockburn: 56.3% vs 67.7%, Williams: 56.3% vs 70.0%, Bezhanishvili: 42.9% vs 59.6%).

These are notable discrepancies that must be corrected immediately. Underwood probably gets 100 free throws in every practice from each of these guys, but at some point it’s a matter of confidence. These three players have the ability to shoot better from the line. They may feel the pressure of a team with high expectations, but at some point they have to overcome that too. You can’t lose charity games.

Dependence on a player

When the Illini fight around the field or pass the ball too often, they tend not to move and rely on a lone ball from Ayo Dosunmu. Brad Underwood spoke about the issue after the loss to Missouri at the beginning of the season. If a player has 36, you don’t win. I hate this. I don’t like any of this.

Dosunmu is a future NBA player, but the rest of the team is just as strong. Cockburn will be on the show, and Adam Miller and Andre Curbelo will welcome this team when Dosunmu and Cockburn will likely leave the show after this season. Trent Frazier, like Da’Monte Williams, is a specialist in shooting and defense. This team is full of talent and is looking to return to basketball with its best player in 2018 and 2019. Every player knows that Dosunmu will shoot last in the deciding game. It has proven to be very reliable in the big moments.

If you ask the question as a second option, five or six other people can get a great score. The offense will come through Dosunmu and Cockburn, but as last week’s unprecedented second half against Northwestern showed, the offense can come from anywhere. Once this team stops falling into old habits, it will exceed the already high expectations of Illini fans.

Photo : Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Illinois basketball will be part of the tournament and could be one of the top five teams at this stage. The strength of schedule ranks 21st in the country, bolstered by a difficult non-conference schedule and participation in the NCAA’s toughest conference. The downside is that the Illini are at 2 or 3 in Quad-1 games (teams in the top 50 of the NET rankings on neutral ground).

For your information: Gonzaga, the best varsity basketball team, is down 4-0. To win the title, Illinois must beat the best. If they fix these extremely fixable flaws, they can compete with the best teams in the NCAA. They are now in the top ten or fifteen teams. You could be in the top five. Once they start playing like that, anything can happen and they could cut the nets at the end of March.

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