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NCAA Basketball: Buy or Sell preseason top 25 teams of 2021-22 after a month

Dec 11, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Sahvir Wheeler (2) celebrates with his teammates after being fouled in the second half against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 11, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Sahvir Wheeler (2) celebrates with his teammates after being fouled in the second half against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports /
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NCAA Basketball Illinois Fighting Illini Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
NCAA Basketball Illinois Fighting Illini Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

11. Illinois Fighting Illini

In the preseason, point guard Andre Curbelo was viewed as a national breakout candidate now that Ayo Dosunmu has moved on to the NBA. However, the team just didn’t look right at the start, also in part to All-American big man Kofi Cockburn being suspended for the first three games of the season. The lack of chemistry may have played a part in the back-to-back losses to Marquette and Cincinnati that knocked them out of the top-25.

Curbelo has been out for the past month with a reported head injury but the Illini has still been able to recover, winning five straight games before falling this past weekend to Arizona in a highly competitive contest. Cockburn (21.4 ppg and 12.0 rpg) has been unstoppable since returning but an argument can be made that the MVP of the team has been Utah transfer, Alfonso Plummer.

Since being inserted into the starting lineup, the senior guard has been averaging a whopping 23.7 ppg in the past six games, all of which was at least 20+. He’s not much of a passer but can be a lethal scorer and very efficient from the field, making 43% of his three-point attempts at nearly eight a clip. Senior guard Trent Frazier has been a double-digit contributor, while both Coleman Hawkins and Jacob Grandison are now healthy and key pieces in the rotation.

If you can excuse those early losses, Illinois has looked impressive in the past couple of weeks. And that’s without Curbelo, who will give them a needed facilitator so that they don’t have to rely on Plummer staying hot. The pieces are there for this team to make a run in the Big Ten, they just have to get on the court together.

Buy