CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — The Illinois basketball season is less than three weeks away, and no, there’s no schedule yet. While Illini Nation waits for the long anticipated 2020-21 schedule, more expectations continue to pour in. Matt Norlander from CBS Sports released his rankings list of every college basketball team on Thursday, with Illinois checking at No. 4. Villanova sits at the top, followed by Gonzaga, Baylor and then Illinois.
And while the preseason hype continues to build, the players aren’t shying away from it, and that includes the newcomers. Highly touted freshmen guards Andre Curbelo and Adam Miller are even embracing the challenge of being a national title contender.
“I really believe we can get to the Final 4, even with the tough schedule,” Miller said during a Zoom call with media on Thursday.
“We could be the best, if not, we’ll be up there as one of the best backcourts in the country,” Curbelo said.
Ayo Dosunmu, Trent Frazier, Adam Miller, Andre Curbelo, Da’Monte Williams, Jacob Grandison and Austin Hutcherson make up the bulk of the Illini guard rotation. The two Top 50 nationally ranked freshmen will add some depth and talent to the backcourt that will be one of the deepest in the Big Ten.
College life has been an adjustment for Curbelo, who has gained 21 pounds since arriving on campus this summer. The Puerto Rico native is up to 180, with Miller up from 178 to 195.
“I’m literally exhausted after every practice just having to guard pros,” Curbelo said. “Ayo’s a pro, Trent’s going to be a pro, all of those guys are pros. And that’s what it’s going to be like going out and facing our opponents.”
Miller’s approach has been very workman-like, keeping everything surrounding COVID-19 in perspective.
“It’s just a rigorous schedule but if you really want to win I promise you it’ll be worth it so like that’s what the coaches tell us everyday, it’s worth it,” Miller said. “Staying in those Saturday nights, those Friday nights staying in the house. It’s a bigger picture.”