CHAMPAIGN — Projecting Illinois basketball's starting lineup for the 2019-20 season isn't an overly difficult challenge. At least as long as you're only thinking about the backcourt.
Trent Frazier will be back for his third season, and the 6-foot-1 guard will be the most experienced Illini on the floor. The longer Ayo Dosunmu goes without declaring for the NBA draft to at least test the waters (he has until April 21 to do so), it seems like the Chicago native will again join the lefty from Florida.
The third guard spot could go a number of directions. Perhaps Da'Monte Williams keeps it for Illinois to take advantage of his knack for hustle plays and defense. Maybe Andres Feliz gives the Illini that three-headed point guard monster. Or it could be time for either Tevian Jones or Alan Griffin — the potential shooters Illinois needs — to take the next step.
The 2019-20 Illinois frontcourt is less settled and currently boasting fewer options. The big question for the Illini is how incoming center Kofi Cockburn and incumbent center Giorgi Bezhanishvili can co-exist on the court together in terms of how much their skill sets overlap.
There's not much flexibility in how Illinois can use Cockburn. The 6-10, 290-pound big man can extend out for some mid-range looks, but he's at his best around the basket. Cockburn averaged 9.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in helping get Oak Hill Academy (Va.) to the semifinals of the GEICO High School Nationals last week.
Bezhanishvili can operate more out of the high post, but it would be best to spread the floor more around a player like Cockburn. That means it would be a boon for Illinois that whomever plays the 4 have a jumper. Bezhanishvili has that potential but didn't show it this past season going 5 of 30 (16.7 percent) from three-point range.
Could the lineup answer for the Illini be to pair Cockburn with "graduate transfer X" and bring Bezhanishvili off the bench? Brad Underwood is at least pursuing the first part of that with reported interest in potential stretch 4s like T.J. Holyfield (Stephen F. Austin), Pat Andree (Lehigh) and Daniel Utomi (Akron).
Illinois' roster wasn't settled until July last offseason. So only time will tell how the Illini frontcourt might shake out come early November.