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I think this coming season’s Illinois men’s basketball team will be a Final Four team, for sure.

Andre Curbelo is going to have a breakout season, and show people why I believe he’s one of the best point guards in the country. His feel for the game was very mature even as a freshman, so I know with a year under his belt now he’s going to really be comfortable out there and show us what he can do.

We have some really good upperclassmen, whom I like to call seasoned vets, that decided to come back for their fifth year in Trent Frazier and Da’Monte Williams. These two bring tons of experience and knowledge to the team.

They have been through pretty much everything there is to go through during the course of a college career — the highs and the lows. They will be a huge key to the team’s success on and off the court.

Big Kofi Cockburn had the whole town scared for a moment as we awaited his decision. My man is coming back for year three.

I can tell he means business and really wants to win a national championship. I think they have a true chance to make that happen this year — even with the loss of last year’s Wooden Award finalist, Ayo Dosunmu, to the upcoming NBA draft.

Coach Brad Underwood’s Illini have a lot of older guys, which means they have a lot of games played and tons of experience. I have a feeling they will have more close games than normal this season, and that’s where age comes into play.

We may not be the most talented Big Ten team on paper, but you can’t teach experience. We will win a lot of close games just, because the guys know how to win. They’ve been there and done that.

Jay Simpson writes for The News-Gazette. His column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. He can be reached at


Jay Simpson, a former Champaign Central High School and Purdue basketball standout, writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at

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