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Could Illinois' Michael Finke be the Best Player No One is Talking About?

Illinois' Michael Finke could serve as a huge asset to a Fighting Illini team that deals with nagging injuries.

Illinois celebrating a victory at the Braggin' Rights Game against Purdue.
Illinois celebrating a victory at the Braggin' Rights Game against Purdue.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois' Michael Finke may be one the best Illinois players that hasn't received a lot of attention in the media. The 6'9", 210 pound forward is coming off a redshirt season with the Illini, and he is eager to get on the court and show what he's got to offer. With all of the injuries that Illinois has endured thus far, there has been a lot of talk about how veterans Malcolm Hill and Mike Thorne Jr. will need to carry their weight and then some, but it's easy to forget that the redshirt freshman Finke could start his Illini career with a splash given his skill set.

With his size, Michael Finke possesses the body to play physical basketball in the post. That being said, he can also step out to the perimeter and knock down the three pointer. While Illinois fans have only seen glimpses of Finke thus far, what they've seen has been promising. Finke was Illinois' second leading scorer in the recent Orange and Blue scrimmage, scoring 12 in the contest. Mike Thorne Jr. led Illinois with 15.

With the dismissal of Darius Paul and the injury of Leron Black, Finke looks to assume the starting power forward position at the beginning of the season. Having someone with his size that can also step out and hit jump shots is a huge asset for Illinois. Wisconsin looks to recruit similar players, and we've seen many of those players become quite successful in Madison (Jared Berggren, Sam Dekker, Frank Kaminsky), so if he really becomes a threat from downtown, he'll have the ability to stretch defenses and become a matchup nightmare at the 4 spot.

Finke's role in the Illini offense becomes crucial with nagging injuries in the frontcourt. He will be called upon to play heavy minutes in the early going, and given the fact that Illinois doesn't have the easiest start to the season, this could prove challenging for the redshirt freshman. The Illini look to face Providence on the road in the early portion of the non-conference season, and Finke will be a huge component of whether or not Illinois wins that basketball game.

Michael Finke seems to have a similar playing style to former Illini Tyler Griffey and Jon Ekey. Tall forwards with outside jump shots have proven effective for Illinois, but Finke differs from the others in the sense that he should be able to play the post more effectively. While Griffey and Ekey put their three point jump shots before their interior game, Finke is a player who should look inside before stepping outside. This could prove crucial in grabbing extra rebounds and getting second chance points.

With the season just around the corner, Illinois has to realize that it needs to play with whatever it's got, despite recent injuries and dismissals. Michael Finke will prove to be a huge piece to the puzzle if he's able to get going in the early part of the season. While he hasn't received much attention thus far, expect him to be a pleasant surprise to an Illini offense that needs all the help that it can get.