Brad Underwood Explains Illini Hoops’ Football Style Baseline Formation


You’ve probably noticed it, typically towards the end of games, the unorthodox Illinois Fighting Illini basketball team lining up in a “football style” formation to inbounds the ball.

It’s three “receivers” on the left with the “quarterback” (in bounds guy) in the middle and one more “receiver” on the right. See the photo above and below. Heading into #4 Illinois demolishing #2 Michigan 76-53 at their place, Illini coach Brad Underwood met the media, and we asked him about the unique way of lining up on the baseline.

First, a little more on last night’s win, one of the biggest regular season victories in school history. If you bet on that game, like you would at Brazino 777  you would have seen the Illini as 8.5 point underdogs, and yet they won by 23. Actually, the game was even more lopsided than that, as Illinois could have easily won by 30.

It’s the first time the Illini beat a top 2 ranked team on the road and the third worst loss ever for Michigan at Crisler Arena. Amazingly, they are now 3-0 without their best player, Ayo Dosunmu, who is out with a facial injury. It’s full on Ewing Theory in action right now. As for the formation, you could say it’s Trips Left, as you have three WRs lining up on the left side. Or it’s elements of the Run ‘n’ Shoot offense as you have a four wide receiver set.

Underwood said this formation goes back awhile, he’s utilized it at both of the previous stops in his coaching career, Oklahoma State and Stephen F. Austin.

“Just one of those things,” Underwood responded. “You sit there one day and you try to figure out, okay, how can you guard it? What’s a formation that’s really hard to guard?

“And it worked great for this team, has worked, and it’s a little bit unique- you don’t see it all the time, and for the most part it’s been pretty effective for us.”

So is football an ispiration at all here?

It’s just being creative, I don’t know,” Underwood answered on the follow up.

“We try to think about different formations and things that people haven’t seen and still may be effective. No real thought process from football, but if it’s the spread formation, (then) yeah, we stole it from football (jokingly).”

Perhaps Illini football coach Bret Bielema can “borrow” this? The first couple times I saw this during a game on tv, I couldn’t help, but embody “Leonardo DiCaprio pointing at the television” meme.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

The Illini entered the week widely considered to be on the #1 seed line, and beating the nation’s second ranked team, on the road, so thoroughly, only strengthened their case.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB NationFollow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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