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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Will Brad Underwood get a chance to coach standout center Kofi Cockburn for a third season at Illinois? Stay tuned.

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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 158: Continuing to move forward

Don't worry, Illinois fans. You didn't dream it. Kofi Cockburn is, in fact, returning to the Illini for another season. And that decision created a bit of a stir within the college basketball community.

Just how good might Illinois be in 2021-22? Jon Rothstein said the Illini would immediately be a top three team in the Big Ten and a top 10 team nationally. Mike DeCourcy wasn't quite as effusive, but said that Illinois' place among the Big Ten contenders puts it in position to compete on the national level, too.

CBS Sports' Gary Parrish had a change of heart between recording the latest episode of his Eye on College Basketball podcast and releasing the next update to his Top 25 And 1 rankings. In the latter, he wasn't sold on bumping the Illini into ranked team status. Then he did.

"Yes, Ayo Dosunmu is gone — and that's a humongous loss," Parrish wrote. "But Brad Underwood is still returning four of the top six scorers from a team that finished 16-4 in the Big Ten — and that's enough to move Illinois up to No. 15 in Version 20.0 of the 2021-21 CBS Sports Preseason Top 25 And 1."

Just at No. 15. A little lower than Illinois fans are hoping.

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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