College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

UIiowa18

Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu (11), Illinois center Kofi Cockburn (21) and Illinois guard Da'Monte Williams (20) head for a time out near the end of the NCAA basketball game at the State Farm Center in Champaign on Sunday, March 8, 2020.

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Welcome to “Good Morning, Illini Nation,” your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He’ll offer up insights every morning on Brad Underwood’s team:

Episode 114: Social issues, recruiting and a November start

The surprising return of both Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn sent Illinois soaring in all of the "too early" top 25 breakdowns from basketball writers across the country. This one included.

The guys at Three Man Weave (informative site and podcast) aren't quite as high on the Illini. Brad Underwood's team came in at No. 16 in Three Man Weave's countdown of the top 40 teams in the country heading into the 2020-21 season. Even so, they provided a rather meticulous reckoning of their ranking.

Illinois might not be in the top 10 of this particular ranking, but Three Man Weave is still projecting a special season in Champaign:

"Following a strong 2020, hopes for 2021 are stratospheric, with many outlets tabbing the Illini as a top 10 squad. We’re only slightly more bearish, as the shooting concerns here are enough to give us some pause, along with questions about the ceiling of a core that’s nearly identical to the one that was not a top 25 team last year. Still, there’s a ton to like here.

"Cockburn will lock down the paint, and Dosunmu’s perimeter brilliance plus the impressive freshmen give Underwood a stacked guard rotation. If two or more of (Adam) Miller, (Jacob) Grandison, (Austin) Hutcherson, and (Coleman) Hawkins can alleviate the shooting concerns, the Illinois optimists could be validated with a huge season in Champaign-Urbana — one that has legitimate Final Four aspirations."

Scott Richey covers college basketball for The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).