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J. Thomas McNamara

     Basketball tickets have been moving fast, with mobile passes and student season tickets both sold out. Excitement is high once again in Champaign, as Illinois enters the 2021-22 season at No. 11 in the AP poll and carrying a streak of 21 consecutive weeks ranked in the Top 25.

Head Coach Brad Underwood‘s fifth UI squad returns three starters and six of its top nine players from last year’s rotation. Led by National Player of the Year candidate Kofi Cockburn, Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year nominee Andre Curbelo, and fifth-year starters Trent FrazierDa’Monte Williams and Jacob Grandison, Illinois welcomes back 63% of its minutes, 60% of its points, and 69% of its rebounds while adding standout transfers and a top-25 ranked recruiting class to the mix.

The winningest Big Ten program over the last two seasons, Illinois is coming off a 24-7 campaign, including a 16-4 mark in conference play followed by the Big Ten Tournament championship and No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Illinois set school records with 19 victories against Big Ten competitors and six wins over top-10 teams and ended the year at No. 2 in the AP poll, the second-highest final ranking in program history.

    I will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.

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