Good Morning, Illini Nation: Getting a defensive boost

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Welcome to "Good Morning, Illini Nation," your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He'll offer up insights every morning on Brad Underwood's team and college basketball at large:

One of the unique attributes of is the ability to sort the data. Like if you wanted to understand deeper context behind the way Illinois played without Terrence Shannon Jr.

The answers are interesting. In the three-plus weeks without Shannon, the Illini boasted the No. 3 offense in the country in terms of adjusted efficiency ... and the No. 91 defense. With Shannon the Illini had the No. 30 offense and the No. 20 defense. So it's not out of bounds to think the return of the veteran guard (via judicial decree) will be more impactful on the defensive end of the court.

"He's one of the elite defenders," Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. "He's 6-6. He's 220 pounds. He's a very, very gifted athlete. On the ball, he's shown to be elite at that. You add that piece back, and that helps us. There's no doubt about that."

Illinois went 4-2 without Shannon. Underwood said the connectivity of the team has never been better. The resulting offense — just in simple terms the Illini scored 101, 96, 71 and 88 points in those wins — is in direct correlation to that connection.

"We were starting to see that with FAU," Underwood said. Shannon, of course, matched Marcus Domask with 33 points apiece in that win. "We were really starting to, for lack of a better term, blossom in terms of where this team was going offensively. We've continued to accelerate that being a top 10 team offensively and eliminating some of the turnovers. Really, the start of our change still had him with us at that time. That's my job to keep integrating that."