Illinois men’s basketball is headed back to Niceville, Fla., from Nov. 27-29 in a return trip to the Emerald Coast Classic after finishing second at the event in 2015. Beat writer SCOTT RICHEY takes a look at what the top four teams in the field might look like in 10 months:
Don’t be surprised if the Gators are again a top-10 team heading into the 2020-21 season. Maybe it will turn out better than it did this season when Mike White’s crew quickly tumbled from the rankings after early losses to Florida State and UConn. Replacing big man Kerry Blackshear Jr. will be an offseason goal, but Florida has a core of current sophomores — Andrew Nembhard, Noah Locke and Keyontae Johnson — to build around moving forward.
Brad Underwood’s fourth team will be an interesting mix of old and new in 2020-21 with four current starters likely to return in Trent Frazier, Kofi Cockburn, Giorgi Bezhanishvili and Da’Monte Williams in addition to bench spark plug Alan Griffin. Bringing in the top young backcourt in the Big Ten in 2020 recruits Andre Curbelo (signed) and Adam Miller (committed) gives the Illini even more weapons in a gritty lead guard and go-to scorer, respectively.
The addition of Penn State transfer Rasir Bolton before this season helps at least partially alleviate the Cyclones’ biggest concern heading into 2020-21. Namely, who will replace Tyrese Haliburton? The sophomore guard is currently a projected lottery pick come June. It’s unlikely he’s still around in November. Another progressive step by Bolton is then necessary, including similar jumps by guys like George Conditt IV, Zion Griffin and Terrence Lewis.
The Ducks will lose Payton Pritchard for sure since he’s graduating. Freshman center N’Faly Dante, too, if he holds up to his projected first round draft pick status. Oregon coach Dana Altman? Well, he currently has zero players committed in the 2020 class. His ability to rebuild on the fly this past offseason, though, means the cupboard’s not empty between transfers Eugene Omoruyi and Eric Williams becoming eligible and young talent in Addison Patterson and C.J. Walker.