Coach: Brad Underwood (third season, 26-39; 135-66 overall)
Last season: 12-21, 7-13 Big Ten
Returning starters: Ayo Dosunmu, 6-5, Soph., G (13.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.3 apg); Trent Frazier, 6-2, Jr., G (13.7 ppg, 2.6 apg); Giorgi Bezhanishvili, 6-9, Soph., F (12.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg); Da’Monte Williams, 6-3, Jr., G (3.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg)
Top reserves: Andres Feliz, 6-2, Sr., G (8.3 ppg); Kipper Nichols, 6-6, Sr., F (5.7 ppg); Tevian Jones, 6-7, Soph., G (3.5 ppg); Alan Griffin, 6-5, Soph., G (2.8 ppg)
Promising newcomers: Jacob Grandison, 6-6, Jr., G/F (transfer from Holy Cross); Austin Hutcherson, 6-6, Jr., G (transfer from Wesleyan); Kofi Cockburn, 7-0, Fr., C; Jermaine Hamlin, 6-10, Fr., C; Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk, 6-8, Fr., F
Key losses: Aaron Jordan, Adonis De La Rosa
Underwood says: “I think we have a different swagger. … 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.’’
Outlook: The Illini may be ready for the largest leap of any team in the league after finishing near the bottom of the standings last season. The trio of Dosunmu, Frazier and Bezhanishvili formed a lethal combination last season and all of them reportedly have taken steps forward in their development. Dosunmu has gained 20 pounds. The Illini also have added some seasoning in a couple of journeyman transfers, and the 7-foot, 280-pound freshman Cockburn provides a physical presence unlike anything this program had last season.