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:
Oscar Tshiebwe is one of the top targets currently in the transfer pool, with the West Virginia sophomore forward entering the portal earlier this week. Per New York Times/Forbes Sports basketball writer Adam Zagoria, a decision from Tshiebwe regarding his transfer destination is expected today. Illinois is in the mix. Again. The Illini recruited Tshiebwe out of high school before he chose the Mountaineers.
Wherever he lands, Tshiebwe will provide a strong post player for his next team. The 6-foot-9, 260-pound forward averaged 10.6 points and 8.9 rebounds in his season-plus at West Virginia.
Here's a look at the fit at each of the four possible destinations, per Zagoria:
Where the Illini face a roadblock is the fact they don't currently have an open scholarship — Brandon Lieb got the 13th and final one this past summer — and several reports have Tshiebwe wanting to transfer and enroll immediately. Should Illinois woo Tshiebwe to Champaign despite that, it would be a serious get. If Kofi Cockburn plays like he did in the second half against Northwestern on a more regular basis, the 7-foot center might follow through on pursuing his professional basketball aspirations. Even if Cockburn winds up at Illinois for a third season, there's nothing wrong with having more post talent.
The Wildcats don't exactly have a loaded froncourt right now and only one big man coming in the Class of 2021. Tshiebwe would certainly fill a need for John Calipari, and not just in the fact he'd add depth to Kentucky's frontcourt. Adding an experienced player (and a good one, at that) to what's almost always a young roster is basically what the Wildcats need.
Considering this season is a freebie for everyone, Miami could return its senior big men like Rodney Miller, Nysier Brooks and Sam Waardenburg again in 2021-22. Too soon to tell if that will actually happen. If they leave, the Hurricanes would need the frontcourt infusion Tshiebwe would provide. Even if they stay, he could play next to them. It's also worth noting Miami didn't address its frontcourt in its 2021 class.
Sophomore forward Manny Bates has pulled off that second-year jump and has basically doubled his scoring production while rebounding more and also blocking more shots. There's still room for Tshiebwe in the Wolfpack frontcourt — even playing with Bates (or incoming 2021 recruit Ernest Ross). N.C. State is fairly well off with guards and wings, so the frontcourt bump from Tshiebwe would round out the roster.