ResILLutions for 2023 – The Champaign Room
Happy New Year, Illinois nation!
What a long and strange journey in 2022.
Here’s a quick recap of Illini’s athleticism last year.
Brad Underwood won a Big Ten championship, the first for the school in 17 years. Then they lost in the first round of the Big Ten tournament and in the round of 16 to Houston. The program has become a social media darling for all the wrong reasons. Bret Bielema led his team to EIGHT wins and a trip to the ReliaQuest Bowl in Tampa Bay on January 2. It’s a hard thing to believe six months ago, but Illinois football has completely blown the Big Ten West. Shauna Green has the women’s basketball team on a steamroller to begin her first season at the helm. She starts 2023 with a 12-2 record as the Big Ten game begins to cook.
I know what you’re thinking. You ate a little too much last night, your head is pounding and all you can think about is how all the Jack in the Box restaurants in your neighborhood went bankrupt seven months ago. Oh wait. It is only me. Need buttermilk tacos.
Here are some quick resolutions and suggestions for 2023.
In a monumental step forward, BU completely changed the way Illinois attacked their opponent, albeit Bethune-Cookman. More “change everything”, more than five outs and Dain Dainja and Sencire Harris were slotted into the starting lineup and each had a few career highs.
Underwood discussing a call with Tim Higgins at MSG, during the surprise Texas Top Ten program. It is due to see the second weekend in 2023. Photo by Lance King/Getty Images
Before Underwood can see the impenetrable Sweet 16, he must right the ship in conference and get out of the 0-2 hole he currently resides in. The adjustments after Mizzou’s beating are the rope and shovel he needs.
However, if Illinois is to find itself playing after the early days of the Big Dance, a few key contributors will have to stand up and deliver.
Underwood needs more downtown from his expected starters.
Terrence Shannon, Coleman Hawkins and RJ Melendez take a cargo of three and don’t do much. They are combined 52/170 for a paltry 30.6% on 13+ attempts per game. Keep in mind that Shannon was 8/9 from downtown against UCLA and Hawkins was 5/8 from downtown against Eastern Illinois in the season opener.
If you take those two games out individually, the numbers are staggering. That puts the trio at 25.4% the rest of the season. Puke.
Dainja and Sencire Harris are both starters. They are huge liabilities down the line, especially Harris. They are combined 24/57 at just 42.1%. Efficiency won’t improve until these numbers do.
The team has more turnovers than assists. It’s disconcerting. A roster of heavy guards should theoretically improve ball security. It was quite the opposite in 2022.
Illinois must stop throwing the ball to the other team and let the other team get their ball. It’s a major contributing factor to the offense ranking 49th nationally and 9th in the Big Ten, even behind Northwestern and Nebraska.
See table below.
Three-point shooters who need to improve are highlighted in ORANGE, free throw responsibilities are in RED, and assists/turnovers as a team are highlighted in BLUE. College Sports Reference
Illinois hasn’t been bowled over since traveling to Pasadena in 2007 to take on USC in the Rose Bowl Game. After some nibbles in lower-level games, head coach Bret Bielema has his football team in position to win a January game against a respected SEC side in Mississippi State.
Here’s Bielema talking about how the ReliaQuest Bowl is a stepping stone to the 2023 season and his plans.
Illini’s football having a significant extra month of training only does overtly positive things for the overall health of the program. Despite Chase Brown (RB), Devon Witherspoon (CB) and Sydney Brown (S) all sitting out of the game to boost their chances of health and wealth in the NFL this spring, there is a lot to watch and learn about what 2023 could bring this fall.
Second-year running back Josh McCray was declared “100% healthy” by Bielema for the entire preparation for the bowl. Expect McCray to show what he can do by keeping his red shirt intact for the season.
I predict 23 carries for 111 yards and a touchdown.
For God’s sake, enjoy it.
Catch a game at State Farm Center and follow the team on social media. Green is an engaging leader and her players love her. Illinois hasn’t had a competent women’s team for a few decades.
This is the first year for Green. Great things awaited the team.
Green implores his team to fight at the State Farm Center. There’s a new game in town to check out. Matt Cross // Twitter
The program had averaged 10.3 wins per year over the previous 10 seasons prior to Green’s arrival on campus.
Makira Cook is averaging 18.3 points per game with an absolutely searing shot. She is 47.9% from three and 81.8% from the charity strip.
Genesis Bryant was even better at shooting the ball. Bryant is 50 percent three (32-64) and a bionic 93.2 percent (41-44) from the line. Unreal numbers.
Overall, the team is 41.2% from beyond the arc and 77.6% from the line. Efficiency at its best.
Perhaps Green could use his services for men’s training to improve the shooting and efficiency of this team as well.
It’s Illinois basketball. It’s Illinois football. Good year.