(WCIA) — Illinois Basketball received 14 votes in the AP Top-25 preseason poll this week, and if they want to meet their high expectations this season, they need defense.
Illinois head coach Brad Underwood says size is valued when it comes to defense, and the Illini have several players with a 6-foot-10 wingspan or larger. That includes returning front court players Giorgi Bezhanishvili and Kipper Nichols. Last season the Illini allowed their opponents to shoot 54.3%, but with more experienced players and the addition of 7-foot freshman Kofi Cockburn, they’re expecting a big improvement.
“I feel great with where we’re at in terms of physically looking the piece, and being able to compete,” says Underwood. “We’re trying to get three stops in a row, six times a game. That starts with attitude, and that attitude, starts on the defensive end.”
“Across the board, we got guys with great wingspans, and great athletic ability,” says Nichols. “So I think it’ll help us a lot on the defensive end.”
The Illini will open their season on Friday November 1st when they host Lewis at the State Farm Center at 8 P.M. CT.