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Long-term roster construction is dead. Brad Underwood knows it.

Happy Sunday, Illinois Country!

My break has disappeared, much like the odds of Illinois defeating UCONN in the Elite 8 about a month ago. It seemed plausible for a while.

It wasn't quite a 30-0 run that ended the game. More like an entirely new basketball team, minus returning junior Ty Rodgers and sophomore Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn.

The previous sentence reads like a fictional basketball movie. Thirteen scholarships available. Two returning players. Both guards.

Rodgers dives for a loose ball in the Elite 8 against eventual champion UCONN. He is the only returning starter.
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Someone with relatively little experience in DGL. The West Lafayette native seemed like a surefire departure for most of the season. Another twist in the plot.

Seemingly on the verge of complete program collapse amid speculative culture and/or the Brad Underwood issuesNot only is the staff bringing a bevy of new players into the transfer portal to make up for some of the lost production, BU is also bringing back the prodigal son in newly crowned associate head coach Orlando Antigua.

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!

Such is life for any current college basketball fan. Especially the ones in Illinois country.

Exaggeration aside, no screenwriter could write what has happened since the last Illinois basketball game. The table read would not contain an ounce of credibility.

Without going into roster developments in this column due to space limitations, I would like to dive deeper into the current overall landscape of college basketball. Immediacy has never been more important.

Be next year DAMNED. This year is all that matters.

Illinois' 2023-24 roster laid the foundation for maximizing the transfer portal for immediate success. It won't be so easy to move forward. The “COVID year” expires next season.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament East Regional-Illinois vs. Iowa State

Domask shoots from behind the arc against Iowa State in Illinois' Sweet 16 win. Squirt.
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

The 2024-25 season will be the last time players will be able to take advantage of the free fifth year. It was a coup for Underwood. You have to make the best use of the cards you are dealt.

Underwood took extreme advantage of the COVID year to build his squad last year. Marcus Domask. Quincy Guerrier. Justin Harmon.

Also take into account the fact that American Terence Shannon Jr. benefited after he moved last year. An Elite 8 team full of old, experienced and talented transfers.

A better – or should I say, luckier – draw to avoid UCONN and this team probably would have made a trip to Phoenix and the Final Four.

Coleman Hawkins still has a COVID year ahead of him.

We all know the potential drama that comes with it. Hawkins entered his name into the transfer portal despite verbally expressing his intention to move to the NBA. The foursome is simply trying to be the most valuable potential transfer on the market at the eleventh hour.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament East Regional-Illinois vs. Iowa State

Hawkins makes a two-handed flush against Iowa State. The program's first Sweet 16 game in nearly two decades… 19 years, to be exact. This lion tattoo is cute as hell.
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Last season was Underwood's second attempt at building a roster through the portal. The first one didn't end so well. It seems like every team is now trying to repeat their success.

This isn't your dad's college basketball. Damn, this isn't college basketball from four years ago.

The long-term roster building and the relentless and overriding emphasis on “next year” and building a cadre of program people disappeared faster than Blu-ray and Arrested Development (the first time) combined.

Syndication: The Commercial Appeal

Dain Dainja (Memphis) and Luke Goode (IU) were eliminated with eligibility despite being ranked in the top eight all season. Good luck to Dainja. Well…well.
Alex Martin/Journal and Courier/USA TODAY NETWORK

It's good business and smart as hell. This could be a Kofi 2.0 situation. We will see.

Hawkins was interviewed by Jeff Goodman of Field of 69 last week. If you have 45 minutes to kill, this is definitely worth a listen and/or watch. Hawkins is excellent in this interview.

Hawkins neither confirms nor denies that he is returning to Champaign. He confirmed without a doubt that he “hates Mizzou” and that other Big Ten teams “loathe” him. My boy.

Underwood and his staff had put together an excellent transfer course. Depending on who you read or talk to, Illinois' transfer class is positioned at different spots in the national rankings.

Such rankings hardly matter. Matthew Mayer was considered an “indispensable transfer” who would move Illinois forward exaggerated to success. Aside from hitting monsters and making the occasional three-pointer, Mayer fell short of expectations.

Marcus Domask was considered a “potentially helpful piece”. That wasn't the case either. Domask was a first-team All-Big Ten selection and was undeniably the centerpiece of the half-court offensepopularized as booty ball.

Nobody knows what effect a player change will have on the field. Lots of moving parts as well as player development and player movement make this task a fool's errand and largely a waste of time.

Boswell will be one of the best point guards in the Big Ten this season. He is the linchpin of the new transfer class. Expect him to be good… at least.

Unless you live under a rock buried under another rock under an active quarryThey know that Champaign native Kylan Boswell is transferring to Illinois.

Boswell is at the top of the class and is the veteran point guard this program desperately needed. He was the starting player on a team that fought for the No. 1 spot until the end of the season.

Boswell failed at the end of the year for Tommy Lloyd and Arizona. Underwood is tasked with raising his floor. We all know where the ceiling is for him.

247 Sports has Illinois' new transfer class ranked No. 11 in the country. That seems about right and at the same time doesn't matter.

Back to Underwood. Its move to the portal years before other top programs gave it an advantage.

The players come and go every year. This is a new fact in men's college basketball.

I don't go to training. I'm not 100% sure how he treats the players. That being said, Underwood doesn't seem to be interested in putting a player on his team on playing time so that he “won't transfer” after the season.

NCAA Basketball: Second Round of the NCAA Tournament – ​​Duquesne Dukes vs. Illinois Fighting Illini

Underwood may need name tags for the first-team huddle this fall.
Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Underwood is a grown man. He understands that the players will do what's best for them after the season, just like he's doing now.

He has had freshmen leave after 75% of games. Following the same scenario, he left as a sophomore. None of this matters.

According to rumors and innuendo, this business strategy is one of the main reasons the program's former point guard Chester Frazier decided to leave his alma mater for West Virginia this offseason.

It remains to be seen, however The constant focus on this year is likely hurting college basketball after a few more seasons of this prudent displacement strategy.

NCAA Basketball: First Round of the NCAA Tournament – ​​Morehead State vs. Illinois

DGL is an asterisk these days. He decided to stay, even though he played very little and Underwood actively tried to “recruit through him.” I keep my fingers crossed for him.
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The new reality as an Illinois fan is simple.

“We will have a new team every year.”

In any case, Underwood turning to the portal out of necessity is not only good business, but it will also give his program a chance to reach the heights that fans believe should be the norm.

With the return of Antigua, Illinois and Underwood have positioned themselves to stay at the top of the Big Ten and compete for the Final Four seemingly every year forever.

Please take part in the scientific survey.

Opinion poll

What is your opinion on the transfer portal?

  • 0%

    I hate it. Bring back college basketball.

    (0 votes)

  • 0%

    You still have to recruit upperclassmen, but the portal is what it is.

    (0 votes)

  • 0%

    Just win, baby.

    (0 votes)

  • 0%

    Let's go mainly to the portal and bring one or two children a year.

    (0 votes)

  • 0%

    Let's collect more NIL so we can get a new team that's better every year!

    (0 votes)


Total 0 votes

Vote now

This is Portal Szn. This is a completely new team. This is a new reality.

This is Illinois basketball.

Anna Harden

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