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).

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Jan. 11: State Farmer Center still was allowing fans in the stands when Kofi Cockburn and Illinois beat Rutgers 54-51 in Champaign. A crowd of 11,070 enjoyed the Illini’s third consecutive win that moved them into sole possession of second place in the Big Ten.

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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 167: Pursuing new options

Andy Katz released his top 25 returning college basketball players for the 2021-22 season a few days ago. It's a fairly Big Ten-heavy list with six players in the top 17. Maybe the biggest surprise is the fact UCLA's Johnny Juzang holds the No. 1 spot. Gonzaga's Drew Timme is pretty much the favorite for that honor, but I like the Juzang pick. If he plays this coming season like he did in the Final Four, I'm going to look brilliant for (spoiler alert) having UCLA as my preseason No. 1 team.

Kofi Cockburn, of course, made the list. He's the highest-ranked Big Ten player at No. 3, and the Illinois center should be a preseason All-American. I'll be voting for him. 

Here's what was written about the Illini big man: "Kofi Cockburn had a busy offseason looking at the NBA and entering the transfer portal. However, he returns to Illinois where he looks to have another exceptional season. Cockburn was a consensus second-team All-American, putting up 16 double-doubles during the season. Katz believes Cockburn’s immovable post presence can lead Illinois deeper in the NCAA tournament and possibly to a Big Ten title."

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

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