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Watch now: Illinois' Brad Underwood will 'shop the whole menu' in accessing the transfer portal in the offseason
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Watch now: Illinois' Brad Underwood will 'shop the whole menu' in accessing the transfer portal in the offseason

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CHAMPAIGN — For anyone looking to get an NCAA Tournament update, don't ask Illinois men's basketball coach Brad Underwood.

Since the Fighting Illini's upset loss to Loyola Chicago in the second round, Underwood has done everything but watch a March Madness game. 

NCAA Drexel Illinois Basketball

Illinois head coach Brad Underwood, center, talks to his team during a timeout in the second half of a first round NCAA Tournament game against Drexel.

"I haven't watched it yet and I haven't had the stomach to do that, to be very honest. I haven't watched a game yet but I will watch the championship game tonight," Underwood said. "I have literally not turned on a TV. I think the one thing I tried to do is process why.

"I thought we were emotionally flat and didn't have any juice. I'm not sure why that was. We played with such an edge when we won 15 of 17 and for whatever reason, we just didn't have it."

The early exit in the NCAA Tournament didn't diminish Underwood's emotions on the team that climbed to a No. 2 ranking in the nation. 

"I thought it was a fantastic year and I think the one thing, with a little time away, is that we are disappointed in the ending. I think that we were all hopeful that we would be playing today. I think that this is part of the growth of a program," he said. "I'm extremely proud of this group of guys this season. I'm proud that we won 16 league games in the best conference in college basketball. We did it with a group that grew and they became connected and came together as one."

That group has the potential to be very different next year. USA Today Player of the Year Ayo Dosunmu will likely head to the NBA draft and Kofi Cockburn could follow suit. Freshman Adam Miller, who started every game in his first season with the Illini, announced that he entered the transfer portal.

Seniors Trent Frazier and Da'Monte Williams each have an additional year of eligibility left and have not made a determination on returning to the program yet. 

B10 Ohio St Illinois Basketball

Ohio State guard CJ Walker (13) drives on Illinois guard Adam Miller (44) in the Big Ten Tournament championship game. Miller entered the transfer portal last week. 

On Friday, Underwood released a statement on Miller's announcement.  

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“Adam was a big part of our success this season, starting every game as a freshman and contributing not just on offense but defensively as well. He has a very bright future ahead, and we wish him all the best," Underwood said. 

On Monday, Underwood added: "To say I am surprised by anything in today's world, I am not."

Although Miller entered the transfer portal, his days will Illinois theoretically might not be over. He could return if he doesn't not receive any enticing offers. 

"They don't have to tell us when they (enter the transfer portal) so I think everything is on the table at this point," he said. "I think the one thing is that we want guys who want to be a part of what we do. As we have the end of the season meetings, we will have those discussions. This is the world we are in. They don't have to tell us anything and they hold all the cards."

Underwood hasn't watched much basketball, but the sport — in the form of the transfer portal — has been the focus of his attention. 

"I would be lying if I did not say that it has been the majority of my last 10 days. It really creates a unique scenario," Underwood said. "I think I have always had the philosophy that I want to build with freshmen and develop them. I don't know if those days exist anymore. I think we are going to have to shop from the full menu, so to speak.

"They are expecting 1,500 kids to be in the portal — that is five per team basically. We have a completely different scenario for recruiting and it impacts trying to get old and stay old."

NCAA Loyola Chicago Illinois Basketball

Illinois center Kofi Cockburn (21) talks with Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu (11) after a foul against Loyola Chicago during NCAA Tournament.

For Underwood, building a prospect like Dosunmu into the top point guard in the nation will be a challenge when you could hypothetically get a talented player who is already formed in the transfer portal. 

"I don't know the full ramifications of that. It becomes more of a challenge to sign a high school kid who can leave. With the portal, they do become a one-time transfer and then they can't leave," Underwood said. "You've got to find the right character pieces.

"I'm wrapping my brain around 34 years of trying to build (a team) one way and now we have done the complete flip from all of that. It is a different world and we are going to have to adapt and learn along the way. The portal is a big part of what we are trying to do and look at."


Contact Matthew Flaten at (217) 421-6968. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFlaten

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