All posts by Matthew Dahlberg

Lover of all sports, including Pro Wrestling and Combat sports. Biased Chicago sports fan at times.

The Potential Chicago Blackhawks Savior: Pius Suter

With injuries to Kirby Dach and Jonathan Toews, Pius Suter has been an unlikely surprise for the Chicago Blackhawks. Suter, unrelated to the hockey royalty Sutter family, grew and played his junior career in Switzerland. While never drafted, Suter certainly hasn’t gone under the radar.

He has played internationally for Switzerland since 2013 and has been invited to NHL camps since 2017. The young center spent most of his Swiss career at ZSC Lions, a top player contributing goals, assists, and championships to the Zürich club. 

Pius Suter The Potential Savior of the Chicago Blackhawks

ZSC Lions

In the 2019-2020 season, Suter won the MVP award and recorded 30 goals and 23 assists. This season wasn’t a fluke for Suter, he previously led the team in assists with 28 in the 2017-2018 season, and was a big reason for the Lions winning the National League championship that year. Savvy hawks fans might remember one of the Lions who previously played with Chicago: Marcus Krüger.

Another big similarity for both the Lions and the Blackhawks is the celebratory goal music. Chelsea Dagger played all over Suter’s extensive highlight reel. In July 2020 Suter implemented his exit clause to join the Blackhawks on a one-year club-friendly contract. 

International and NHL Experience

Suter has been making waves in more than just the Swiss league. The lefthanded forward has played with and against some terrific talent in his nine seasons as a skater. Wherever he goes, Suter seems to find the back of the net. Having played internationally for Switzerland since 2013 he has collected 20 points in 33 appearances.

The most notable performance was in the 2018 Olympics. Against host country South Korea, Suter scored a hat trick in an 8-0 rout of their opponents. His experience has drawn attention from multiple NHL teams including the Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders. The NHL invites and workouts motivated Suter to push his game to the next level. He finally earned himself a full-time opportunity for one of the original-six squads this season.

His Role for the Hawks

The Blackhawks had to search for alternative options filling out the roster after the open letter to fans declared the team was going to rebuild for the next couple of seasons. Suter was a low risk potentially high reward acquisition that was set to be featured on the backend rotation. After injuries and illness, two of the top centers were on the shelf his role was greatly expanded.

The constantly shifting first line for the Hawks featured Suter, Alex DeBrincat, and Patrick Kane against the Detroit Redwings last Sunday. It was a good night for the top line, two goals at even strength and one additional power-play goal, all scored by the Swiss native. It was the first hat trick by a Blackhawks rookie in the first six games of the season in over ninety years. 

Strengths

As a player, Suter is known for quick hands, wise decision making, and a nose for the net. When he has the puck, don’t blink. Most of his shots are likely to come off rebounds, redirects, and wristers. Very little of his shift time will be spent at the point, despite being under six foot most of his skating is done in the crease and slot.

When he does have the puck he is constantly looking up at his teammates or the net. Suter also excels at elevating the puck no matter what position his stick is in. While not the hardest hit shot, the puck jumps off the blade and catches most defenders and goalkeepers off guard.

Weaknesses

Where he will have to improve is in his strength and tenacity. In the young season, he won about 43% of faceoffs. A number that will need to boost if he wants to stay on in crucial situations. As the smallest center on the roster, he will have a target on his back as top teams will try to bully him off the puck.

It will be interesting to see if the Blackhawks trainers and dieticians will try adding muscle to Suter’s slim frame or if they fear it will cost him his scoring and skating ability. The Blackhawks can afford to be more patient when it comes to their young players as opposed to years past. Expect to see much more Pius Suter on your television in the coming months.  

No Count Outs: WWE Culture and Sting’s First Match

The Undertaker spoke to Joe Rogan about WWE culture inside the locker room culture then and now. WWE has set the top championship matches for the Royal Rumble. Kevin Owens will face Roman Reigns and Drew McIntire will face Goldberg.  Raw had some confusing angles involving Alexa Bliss and Randy Orton.

Wednesday’s NXT heavily featured The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic with the men and women on Wednesday’s NXT. Lucha House Party advanced over Imperium as well as Leon Ruff and Kushida beat The Way. Toni Storm’s momentum was halted when she and Mercedes Martinez lost to Carter and Catanzaro; major upset on the women’s side.

During the week, AEW and Impact continued to intermingle. Private Party became the new number one contenders for Impact tag titles. MJF and Chris Jericho defeated the rest of the Inner Circle in tag competition. Sting’s first match was teased as Darby Allin accepted a street fight against Team Taz.

No Count Outs: WWE Culture and Sting's First Match No Count Outs

The Undertaker spoke to Joe Rogan about WWE's Culture inside the locker room culture then and now. WWE has set the top championship matches for the Royal Rumble. Kevin Owens will face Roman Reigns and Drew McIntire will face Goldberg.  Raw had some confusing angles involving Alexa Bliss and Randy Orton. On Wednesday NXT the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic was featured heavily with the men and women. Lucha House Party advanced over Imperium as well as Leon Ruff and Kushida beat The Way. Big upset on the women's side as Toni Storm's momentum was halted as she and Mercedes Martinez lost to Carter and Catanzaro. During the week, AEW and Impact continued to intermingle. Private Party became the new number one contenders for Impact tag titles. MJF and Chris Jericho defeated the rest of the Inner Circle in tag competition. Sting's first match was teased as Darby Allin accepted a street fight against Team Taz. Follow the show @NoCountOutsPod . Keep tabs on hosts Matt Dahlberg (@M_broski21) and Tyler Pearson (@T_pearson10four). Email the show at NoCountOuts@gmail.com! — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app

Follow the show @NoCountOutsPod . Keep tabs on hosts Matt Dahlberg (@M_broski21) and Tyler Pearson (@T_pearson10four). Email the show at NoCountOuts@gmail.com!

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The Chicago Bears Season in Review and Ahead

It’s been a rough season for the Chicago Bears. Okay, that may be putting it mildly. On paper, the Bears started strong with a 5-1 record. The defense was leading the way for the Bears. Many had hoped either Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles would improve the offense to a serviceable level of competition. The victories were close, but that’s what good teams do, win the close games. That was what the optimistic sect of Bears fans told themselves.

Reviewing the Chicago Bears Season and Taking a Look Ahead

The Skid

Then the losing streak hit. Each week it felt like groundhog day, with little change to the frustrating cycle. The defense would do its best to hold their opponent within arm’s reach. The offense would go entire quarters, sometimes even games without much production. Injuries to the defense piled up and glaring issues were exposed.

Chuck Pagano built his defensive reputation in Indianapolis but his time in Halas Hall has seen immense regression. Chicago went from number one in the NFL in points allowed per game (17.7) to 14th (23.1). This is despite a big offseason acquisition in Robert Quinn who has just two sacks. At 5-7 and six straight losses, Matt Nagy was on the hot seat.

The Resurgence

One constant of the Nagy organization is, his team refuses to turn on each other. After Foles’ injury against the Vikings in Week 10,  Trubisky was thrust back into the starting lineup. The offense began ticking again. In their next three games, Trubisky led his team to an average of 36 points per game and won all three contests. This stretch paved the way to slip into the playoffs in the number seven seed and seems to have kept Nagy and company around for at least one more season.

Nagy’s run as head coach hasn’t always been the smoothest but this has been the most successful era since Lovie Smith. Nagy is without a losing season in his first three years as head coach, reaching the playoffs twice. This accomplishment shouldn’t be taken lightly, it’s been nearly a decade and a half since the monsters of the midway have seen the postseason that frequently. There is tangible frustration, and it’s warranted, but even when things seem hopeless some franchises find fortune.

The Strengths of This Team

The losses of Bobby Massie and James Daniels forced the offensive line to shuffle. Notre Dame alums Sam Mustipher and Alex Bars have stepped up huge. They are part of the reason why David Montgomery eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark and finished fifth in overall rush yards. Nagy has capitalized on this and re-focused the offense to match its strengths.

Few fans will disagree that Trubisky’s legs are one of his stronger attributes. The play calling now includes more moving pockets and RPO’s and less deep dropbacks and slow-developing plays. When the defense gets pressure on the quarterback, Eddie Jackson and Kyle Fuller have the freedom to jump routes and make plays. All-Pro special teamer Cordarrelle Patterson will need to make his presence felt if the Bears have any chance at winning on Sunday against the Saints.

It’s a New Season for the Chicago Bears

As the postseason gets underway this weekend the Chicago Bears do have a chance to make a run, no matter how unlikely it may seem. Teams with more systemic problems have united in the past and forged unlikely roads to success in the playoffs. The 2011 New York Giants are an example of a team that surprised analysts and fans alike. They made adjustments at just the right time leading to iconic playoff memories. Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning led the G-Men who had an eerily similar season to this year’s NFC North contenders.

The Giants lost five of six games late in the season and fans were calling for Coughlin’s head. The team limped into the playoffs with a 9-7 and a negative point differential. The defense was pitiful in the regular season giving up over 25 points per game but in the playoffs, they averaged just 14 points against even though only one of the games was held at home. They ended their season with a Lombardi trophy upsetting the legendary duo of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady for the second time. As a fan, enjoy this Sunday, who knows when another game as meaningful as this will take place for the Chicago Bears.

Clocker Sports

No Count Outs: Bullet Club’s Return and Kota Ibushi Ascends

AEW Dynamite’s last 30 minutes blew the roof off of Daily’s Place in Jacksonville, Florida with Bullet Club’s return. The was a war for the AEW World Championship title between Rey Fenix and Kenny Omega. Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson joined the retaining champ Omega and beat down Fenix.  In response, Jon Moxley and a smorgasbord of AEW wrestlers tried to stop the run-ins. The Young Bucks sifted through the chaos and joined the rest of their former associates for the Bullet Club Return and a too sweet in the center of the ring.

Across the Pacific, NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom lived up to the hype and overcame the challenges with the world pandemic, Kota Ibushi was undoubtedly  the star of the show. He bested Naito in night one and Jay White in night two to hold the top two belts in Japan.

No Count Outs: WWE Culture and Sting's First Match No Count Outs

The Undertaker spoke to Joe Rogan about WWE's Culture inside the locker room culture then and now. WWE has set the top championship matches for the Royal Rumble. Kevin Owens will face Roman Reigns and Drew McIntire will face Goldberg.  Raw had some confusing angles involving Alexa Bliss and Randy Orton. On Wednesday NXT the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic was featured heavily with the men and women. Lucha House Party advanced over Imperium as well as Leon Ruff and Kushida beat The Way. Big upset on the women's side as Toni Storm's momentum was halted as she and Mercedes Martinez lost to Carter and Catanzaro. During the week, AEW and Impact continued to intermingle. Private Party became the new number one contenders for Impact tag titles. MJF and Chris Jericho defeated the rest of the Inner Circle in tag competition. Sting's first match was teased as Darby Allin accepted a street fight against Team Taz. Follow the show @NoCountOutsPod . Keep tabs on hosts Matt Dahlberg (@M_broski21) and Tyler Pearson (@T_pearson10four). Email the show at NoCountOuts@gmail.com! — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app

Follow the show @NoCountOutsPod . Keep tabs on hosts Matt Dahlberg (@M_broski21) and Tyler Pearson (@T_pearson10four). Email the show at NoCountOuts@gmail.com!

bullet club’s return

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No Count Outs: You Know What That Means

No Count Outs – “You Know What That Means”

RIP, Mr. Brodie Lee/Luke Harper

The loss of John Huber (Mr. Brodie Lee/LukeHarper) was felt around the wrestling world. AEW and WWE honored the loss of a wrestler, father, and man. Many wrestlers, such as Big E and Eddie Kingston, shared stories of their time spent with the Exalted One, Big Rig, and Luke Harper. He held many personas but his legacy has just one face. Dynamite featured a card built by Minus One, Huber’s son Brodie. This included a main event of his favorite stars: Orange Cassidy, Cody Rhodes, and Preston Vance. That and more on another jam packed episode of the No Count Outs wrestling podcast.

No Count Outs: WWE Culture and Sting's First Match No Count Outs

The Undertaker spoke to Joe Rogan about WWE's Culture inside the locker room culture then and now. WWE has set the top championship matches for the Royal Rumble. Kevin Owens will face Roman Reigns and Drew McIntire will face Goldberg.  Raw had some confusing angles involving Alexa Bliss and Randy Orton. On Wednesday NXT the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic was featured heavily with the men and women. Lucha House Party advanced over Imperium as well as Leon Ruff and Kushida beat The Way. Big upset on the women's side as Toni Storm's momentum was halted as she and Mercedes Martinez lost to Carter and Catanzaro. During the week, AEW and Impact continued to intermingle. Private Party became the new number one contenders for Impact tag titles. MJF and Chris Jericho defeated the rest of the Inner Circle in tag competition. Sting's first match was teased as Darby Allin accepted a street fight against Team Taz. Follow the show @NoCountOutsPod . Keep tabs on hosts Matt Dahlberg (@M_broski21) and Tyler Pearson (@T_pearson10four). Email the show at NoCountOuts@gmail.com! — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app

Be sure to follow Matt and Tyler on Twitter @M_Broski21, @T_Pearson10four, and @NoCoutOutsPod for the latest hot takes on the wrestling world. Also subscribe to the podcast, now available on all major platforms. The No Count Outs wrestling podcast is powered by ClockerSports.com. For the best in analysis, discussion, interviews, and kayfabe news, tune into the No Count Outs wrestling pod. Be sure to follow Clocker Sports on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and check out all of our other great podcasts and articles!

No Count Outs: Fire and Flair

No Count Outs – Fire and Flair

WWE’s TLC Pay-Per-View opened with Drew McIntire and AJ Styles in a traditional TLC match. McIntire retained despite numerous obstacles including a potential Money in the Bank cash-in by Morrison. Charlotte Flair made her return to assist Asuka in capturing the Women’s Tag Team Titles. Roman Reigns fought off Kevin Owens with the help of Jey Uso. Randy Orton set The Fiend ablaze in a Firefly Inferno match.

In AEW the Acclaim secured a tag team championship match with the Young Bucks after winning over former champs SCU. Kenny Omega was confronted by a new challenger, Rey Fenix.

No Count Outs: WWE Culture and Sting's First Match No Count Outs

The Undertaker spoke to Joe Rogan about WWE's Culture inside the locker room culture then and now. WWE has set the top championship matches for the Royal Rumble. Kevin Owens will face Roman Reigns and Drew McIntire will face Goldberg.  Raw had some confusing angles involving Alexa Bliss and Randy Orton. On Wednesday NXT the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic was featured heavily with the men and women. Lucha House Party advanced over Imperium as well as Leon Ruff and Kushida beat The Way. Big upset on the women's side as Toni Storm's momentum was halted as she and Mercedes Martinez lost to Carter and Catanzaro. During the week, AEW and Impact continued to intermingle. Private Party became the new number one contenders for Impact tag titles. MJF and Chris Jericho defeated the rest of the Inner Circle in tag competition. Sting's first match was teased as Darby Allin accepted a street fight against Team Taz. Follow the show @NoCountOutsPod . Keep tabs on hosts Matt Dahlberg (@M_broski21) and Tyler Pearson (@T_pearson10four). Email the show at NoCountOuts@gmail.com! — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app

No Count Outs. This is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. DangeRuss

No Count Outs: Impact and Impasse

No Count Outs – Impact and Impasse

In this episode of the No Count Outs Wrestling podcast the guys talk War Games packing action but was not without incident. After some scary spots Candice LeRae’s team won despite the team captain breaking her arm. The match included great highlights from Ember Moon, Io Shirai and Raquel Gonzalez. Pat McAfee and his team lost to Adam Cole and the rest of Undisputed Era. Johnny Gargano stood tall over Ruff and Priest in the North American Championship match.

On AEW Sting and Kenny Omega explained their actions from Winter Is Coming. The Young Bucks kept rolling over TH2 and the Inner Circle contemplated breaking up for good. Tommy “Zeus” Lister and Pat Patterson passed away.

No Count Outs: WWE Culture and Sting's First Match No Count Outs

The Undertaker spoke to Joe Rogan about WWE's Culture inside the locker room culture then and now. WWE has set the top championship matches for the Royal Rumble. Kevin Owens will face Roman Reigns and Drew McIntire will face Goldberg.  Raw had some confusing angles involving Alexa Bliss and Randy Orton. On Wednesday NXT the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic was featured heavily with the men and women. Lucha House Party advanced over Imperium as well as Leon Ruff and Kushida beat The Way. Big upset on the women's side as Toni Storm's momentum was halted as she and Mercedes Martinez lost to Carter and Catanzaro. During the week, AEW and Impact continued to intermingle. Private Party became the new number one contenders for Impact tag titles. MJF and Chris Jericho defeated the rest of the Inner Circle in tag competition. Sting's first match was teased as Darby Allin accepted a street fight against Team Taz. Follow the show @NoCountOutsPod . Keep tabs on hosts Matt Dahlberg (@M_broski21) and Tyler Pearson (@T_pearson10four). Email the show at NoCountOuts@gmail.com! — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app

No Count Outs. This is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. DangeRuss

No Count Outs: Winter is Here

In this installment of the No Count Outs wrestling pod, the guys get into Sting making his awe-inspiring return to the world of pro wrestling on AEW Dynamite and ask what will the repercussions be? Kenny Omega is the new AEW champion and Don Callis is bringing Omega with him on Impact. Orange Cassidy and MJF outlasted all other competitors in the Dynamite Diamond Battle Royal, after some controversy between him and another inner circle member, Sammy Guevara.

On WWE programming NXT prepped for war games. Shotzi Blackheart faced Raquel Gonzalez and won after securing the briefcase. Imperium appeared and promised to go after the NXT tag titles currently held by Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch. A.J. Styles is the next contender for Drew McIntyre‘s championship.

No Count Outs: WWE Culture and Sting's First Match No Count Outs

The Undertaker spoke to Joe Rogan about WWE's Culture inside the locker room culture then and now. WWE has set the top championship matches for the Royal Rumble. Kevin Owens will face Roman Reigns and Drew McIntire will face Goldberg.  Raw had some confusing angles involving Alexa Bliss and Randy Orton. On Wednesday NXT the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic was featured heavily with the men and women. Lucha House Party advanced over Imperium as well as Leon Ruff and Kushida beat The Way. Big upset on the women's side as Toni Storm's momentum was halted as she and Mercedes Martinez lost to Carter and Catanzaro. During the week, AEW and Impact continued to intermingle. Private Party became the new number one contenders for Impact tag titles. MJF and Chris Jericho defeated the rest of the Inner Circle in tag competition. Sting's first match was teased as Darby Allin accepted a street fight against Team Taz. Follow the show @NoCountOutsPod . Keep tabs on hosts Matt Dahlberg (@M_broski21) and Tyler Pearson (@T_pearson10four). Email the show at NoCountOuts@gmail.com! — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app

No Count Outs. This is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. DangeRuss.

Breaker

No Count Outs. This is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. DangeRuss

No Count Outs: Brotherly Love

Survivor Series led the way for another strong week for professional wrestling on WWE and AEW programming. In singles champion vs champion matches Roman Reigns beat Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley defeated Sami Zayn. Asuka fell to Sasha Banks and Street Profits knocked off the New Day. NXT saw Toni Storm turn heel and the build for War Games begin to take shape. AEW had the last word in preparation for Winter is Coming. Jon Moxley suckered Kenny Omega, Abadon frightened Hikaru Shida, and the Dark Order once again tried to lure Adam Page into their fold.

No Count Outs: WWE Culture and Sting's First Match No Count Outs

The Undertaker spoke to Joe Rogan about WWE's Culture inside the locker room culture then and now. WWE has set the top championship matches for the Royal Rumble. Kevin Owens will face Roman Reigns and Drew McIntire will face Goldberg.  Raw had some confusing angles involving Alexa Bliss and Randy Orton. On Wednesday NXT the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic was featured heavily with the men and women. Lucha House Party advanced over Imperium as well as Leon Ruff and Kushida beat The Way. Big upset on the women's side as Toni Storm's momentum was halted as she and Mercedes Martinez lost to Carter and Catanzaro. During the week, AEW and Impact continued to intermingle. Private Party became the new number one contenders for Impact tag titles. MJF and Chris Jericho defeated the rest of the Inner Circle in tag competition. Sting's first match was teased as Darby Allin accepted a street fight against Team Taz. Follow the show @NoCountOutsPod . Keep tabs on hosts Matt Dahlberg (@M_broski21) and Tyler Pearson (@T_pearson10four). Email the show at NoCountOuts@gmail.com! — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app

The Fighting Illini Are on the Rise

The Fighting Illini return to Champaign, Illinois motivated after a canceled postseason campaign incited Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn to withdraw from the NBA draft. The Illini are intent on chasing an NCAA title. Joining them in their quest for basketball immortality will be a mixture of top 50 prospects, seasoned seniors, and unexpected international gems. How good will Illinois be and is a trip to the Final Four a possibility for them?

The Rise of the Fighting Illini

Last Season

Last season they led the Illini to an impressive 21-10 record best win percentage since 2010., They also finished fourth in the Big Ten winning 13 of 20 games against conference opponents. Illinois was a strong defensive and rebounding team, not an uncommon style for a Big Ten club. They were also known for getting to the charity stripe effectively, ranking 13th among all Division I teams.

Struggles were very apparent for Brad Underwood’s side: perimeter shooting ranked 297th in attempts and percentage, and turnovers, a lowly 269th. The only bright spot from the outside was sophomore guard Alan Griffin who shot over 41 percent while the team as a whole shot just over 31 percent.

The team was projected to make it to their first NCAA tournament since 2013. All of that changed once the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The virus dashed fans’ hopes at watching the Illini navigate a deep run in the tourney. Dosunmu made the All-Big Ten second team and Cockburn won Big Ten Rookie of the Year, a small consolation in a year that could have been much more.

The Offseason

Dosunmu and Cockburn looked to be headed to NBA futures, but unfinished business is still ahead for the dynamic tandem. On July 31st Dosunmu released a video on his Twitter.

“My dream has been to play in the NBA, but first I need that national championship.” – Ayo Dosunmo/Twitter

Later that same day Cockburn announced he will be withdrawing from the NBA as well to join Dosunmu, backing the orange and blue for one more season.

It wasn’t all good news over the summer, Alan Griffin, the team’s only sharpshooter transferred to Syracuse, and senior Andres Feliz, who was second in assists (2.9), rebounds (5.0), and third in points (11.0)) graduated.

The subsequent lockdowns in Illinois have hindered practices and training for Illinois. More of the onus was placed upon the players to stay in shape, eat well since regular structured offseason activities were not always possible.

The Freshman recruits

The incoming freshmen looking to fill in the gaps include Puerto Rico-born Andre Curbelo and Illinois’ own Adam Miller. In just the first three games Curbelo and Miller have had an enormous impact. In the opening contest against North Carolina A&T, Miller and his fellow Morgan Park High School Alum Dosunmu scored 28 points to beat the Aggies by a score of 122-60.

Miller went six of eight behind the arc helping Illini surpass the school record of three-pointers made in a game with 17. Against Chicago State the next day Curbelo contributed 18 points off the bench in just 20 minutes and was a big reason why the Illini routed the Cougars 97-38.

Season Outlook

The last time the Fighting Illini were ranked in the preseason top ten in 2004 they went all the way to the national championship game. That team featured Deron Williams who would go on to have an incredibly successful NBA career. Will this team echo the Illini of old, or will the inexperience of this team leave them wanting more again?


The talent in Illinois is extraordinary, with more depth than any in Brad Underwood’s previous teams. Junior Giorgi Bezhanishivli, a former starter for the squad is a versatile forward that could add some experience to a bench that features mostly underclassmen and transfers. Underwood for his part has coached his previous schools to four straight NCAA tournament appearances for Stephen F. Austin and Oklahoma.


The big unknown for this team is who will provide consistent offense when Dosunmu is on the bench or in the midst of a cold streak. Cockburn is a tremendous defender and physical presence on the inside but has been completely shut down on the offensive end by some of the premier Big Ten defenders like Iowa’s Luka Garza who held Cockburn to just six points in their first meeting last year.

Adam Miller could be that necessary spark. Miller averaged 21.5 points on 71% in his first two appearances but had a much tougher game against Ohio and it nearly cost Illinois due to Miller going without a bucket on the perimeter in a tight 77-75 against the MAC opponents.

Arguably the biggest key for a successful season has to be limiting turnovers. Averaging over 12 turnovers a game gave away too many chances for a team that prides itself on effort plays and high basketball IQ. Dosunmu needs to play within himself and trust his talented squad. His 81 turnovers were the fifth most in the Big Ten and will have to be improved if a national title run is in the cards.


Overall Illinois has a good chance at positioning themselves at the top of the big ten with a potential high seed going into Indy. A lot could hinge on the limited but important senior leadership of Trent Frazier and Da’Monte Williams who have spent every year under Brad Underwood’s tutelage.

Both are currently in the starting rotation but have been unheralded heroes of a core ripe with potential. Keep your eyes on Champaign this Wednesday as Illinois faces another top ten opponents in the number two ranked Baylor Bears.