Illini hoops receives votes in preseason AP poll
Illinois basketball received votes in the AP Top 25 preseason poll, coming in with the 33rd most points (14) in the preseason ballot. The Illini, which went 12-21 last season (7-13 Big Ten), received the fifth-most points among Big Ten teams.
Michigan State ranks No. 1, Maryland ranks No. 7, Ohio State ranks No. 18 and Purdue ranks No. 23. Michigan, 2 points, is the only other Big Ten team to receive votes.
Most other projections have Illinois taking a big leap in Year Three underBrad Underwood, who has an 11-27 Big Ten record during his first two seasons in Champaign. In a poll of Big Ten beat writers conducted by The Athletic, Illinois is projected to finish seventh among 14 Big Ten teams. KenPom.com numbers project Illinois as the No. 35 team in its preseason rankings.'s Andy Katz has been really high on the Illini, recently putting the Illini in the top-20 of his preseason polls.
"I love the fact that we have expectations," Underwood said. "Illinois basketball is deserving of that. Our players are deserving of that. It's time for us to grow into those. It's not easy. Winning is not an easy thing, especially in the Big Ten."
Illinois returns one of the most experienced teams in the Big Ten with eight of its top-nine scorers returning including Preseason All-Big Ten sophomore guardAyo Dosunmuand two other double-digit scorers: sophomore forwardGiorgi Bezhanishviliand junior guardTrent Frazier. The Illini also add top-50 freshman centerKofi Cockburn.
"Well, I think we have a different swagger," Underwood said. "I use that term -- I think there's a different feel about us -- just from the experience standpoint. I don't think there's that giddiness of the unexpected. I think we know now. We have the ability to have guys that can lead the young guys, that can lead the guys that maybe didn't play as much last year. I think all those things are positive. And I think that there's a confidence that comes with that. We see that in our off-season workouts. We've seen that this summer in Italy and continue to see that as we will head through the fall here.
"The program is one that we keep striving to get back to that elite status. Nothing would make me happier than -- not just for our players, but for our fans -- to get back and get in the tournament, be able to make a great run and continue to lay the foundation for what should be an every-year experience for us, and that's being in the NCAA Tournament."
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