Illinois Basketball: Illini New Year’s resolutions for 2022

by 24USATVJan. 7, 2022, 8 p.m. 33
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Nov 12, 2021; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Andre Curbelo (5) gives teammate Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk (13) a hand after he was fouled against the Arkansas State Red Wolvesat State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

With 2022 underway, this means a fresh start for the Illinois basketball program.

In the midst of the chaos that is the 2021-2022 college basketball season, the Illini basketball program finally met COVID’s match.

After a dominant Braggin’ Rights win against Missouri on December 22, Illinois was put on a COVID pause for 12 days, as it was reported that 10 players had contracted the virus.

The Illini returned to Big Ten play in a road tilt against Minnesota on January 4 and picked up right where they left off in St. Louis. A dominant 76-53 win against a surging Gophers team, that also had a two-week COVID pause, was just the spark the Illinois team needed to get back to work.

Kofi Cockburn, who is in the running for the National Player of the Year, scored 29 points in the drubbing of the Gophers. Illinois then took down a tough Maryland team in Champaign on January 6 by a score of 76-64. The Illini now sit at 4-0 in Big Ten play and are looking ahead towards a brighter 2022.

With a critical slate of games on the horizon, including back-to-back home games against Michigan and Purdue during the second week of January, this slate of conference action could make a difference come March.

For now, though, here are three New Years Resolutions that Illinois basketball fans can hopefully look forward to during the second half of the season.

It goes without saying, Andre Curbelo is one of the most electrifying players in all of college basketball, let alone just on the Illini. He is currently undergoing a lengthy concussion protocol coupled with mental health struggles.

Regardless, though, the Illini fateful want to see one of Puerto Rico’s finest talents out on the floor as soon as he’s able to compete.

Illinois was crowned as the Big Ten co-conference champion with Michigan at the end of the 2020-2021 season. This result did not sit well with Illini Nation, considering that they went into Ann Arbor and dominated Michigan without current Bulls rookie, Ayo Dosunmu.

While the athletic department attempted to rectify the situation, it just wasn’t meant to be. The Illini made up for it, however, by upending Ohio State in Indianapolis to win the Big Ten Tournament.

If the Illini can remain consistent in conference play, this won’t be an issue and Illinois will hang another banner in the rafters next fall.

3. The Illini finish strong in the AP Top 25 Poll

Illinois began the season No. 11 in the nation. As a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament last March, the Illini fell victim to an upset at the hands of Loyola-Chicago in the second round.

Three losses, including a heartbreaker against Marquette, have kept the Illini on the outside looking in ever since. If Illinois can keep winning, especially if it can find a way to knock off No. 3 Purdue in Champaign, the Orange and Blue will continue to build a solid resume come tournament time.

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