Brad Underwood Provides Updates on Illini Offseason

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Illinois Fighting Illini coach Brad Underwood met the media via teleconference today, in an extensive session that covered a wide range of topics. Illinois finished the season ranked #21 in the nation, and they were projected to be about a #6 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

They stood a great chance of progressing to the second weekend of March Madness. “We assumed we’d be making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament so there wouldn’t be any spring break,” Underwood said today of the team’s plans in early March, and how they gelled with the school’s academic calendar.

The Illini were one day from beginning their conference tournament run when the Big Ten tourney, as well as the rest of the college basketball postseason was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Millions of dollars in gambling revenue was lost when the tournament was cancelled, but you can sign up with BetMGM for when basketball, and thus basketball wagering, finally returns. At this point, no one can honestly say when that will be, but we do know that we can’t spend much more time ruminating about what was lost this March or what might have been.

We must look forward, even if we don’t know what exactly we have to look forward to, or when. The NBA Draft is still scheduled for late June, and that may still happen, albeit in perhaps a very different form.

“There are a lot of factors that are totally unknown,” Underwood said on the call. “Unless you’re a pretty sure-fire top-10 pick, you aren’t even sure what that process is.”

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Underwood’s best player is stellar sophomore point guard Ayo Dosunmu, and he possesess a substantial amount of NBA Draft stock.

“Ayo’s in a position to examine all those things,” Underwood said of the Morgan Park graduate.

“It’s not about pressuring anybody. It’s always about trying to be in a position of support and help. We’ve always got a home. I want our guys to know that.”

Underwood said that Dosunmu has not informed him of any decision about the draft as of yet. These days, working out and preparing for the draft is more challenging than ever as most of our country is on lockdown.

“Very few of our guys are finding gyms,” Underwood said. “Very few of our guys are even finding access to parks. We’re telling them to try and be creative.”

It’s a challenging time for everybody in college basketball, but at least every program is disadvantaged, pretty much equally. Overall, Underwood likes what he was to work with in 2020-21.

“We feel like we’re in a good position at every roster spot,” he said on the press call.

“You start getting very detailed. We could potentially use a stretch four. A lot depends on if one-time transfer rule passes. If we had a sit-out guy, it could be anywhere from a big to a point guard.”

Underwood also praised his sit-out transfers who will now be eligible this upcoming season:

“Most of the world doesn’t know about Austin (Hutcherson) and Jacob (Grandison).”

In addition to all the uncertainty surrounding sports in general, everybody who works in these industries must now adjust to a life in which we’re all at home all the time.

“I unload the dishwasher every morning, I make coffee every morning. Those are things I haven’t done,” Underwood said before then joking: “My wife hasn’t kicked me out yet, so that’s a good thing.”

In these trying times, we all need to crack a few jokes here and there. It’s the only way we’ll get through this.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation.

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link

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