Illinois is rolling and dancing, cruising in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament with a pair of high-flying performances!

After falling behind early to Morehead State in the opening round, Illinois has never looked back. The Illini blew past Morehead State and then steamrolled Duquesne Saturday night by a final score of 89-63.

In the process, Illinois has rolled into the Sweet 16 and will face 2-seed Iowa State next Thursday. After averaging 87 points this weekend, the Illini will put their elite offense against Iowa State’s defense, the No. 2 defensive unit per KenPom‘s adjusted efficiency.

As fans brace for that showdown, here are the key takeaways from Saturday’s victory over Duquesne:

Terrence Shannon Jr. continues electric postseason

When it comes to success in the NCAA Tournament, it never hurts to have an elite scorer you can lean on. Shannon has been that for Illinois since the B1G Tournament.

In 5 games across both tournaments, Shannon has scored 26+ points in every game, including 30+ 3 times. He finished Saturday’s win with an even 30, and his efficiency was off the charts.

Shannon went 10-for-14 from the floor with 3 of his misses coming from 3-point range. That means he shot 9-for-11 inside the arc and nailed all 8 free-throw attempts. Shannon also added 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in the win.

No one else in the country is on Shannon’s level right now, and it gives Illinois some confidence heading into next week’s showdown vs. the Cyclones. Be sure to track all the latest odds and action with Tradition’s Ohio sports betting links.

Sweet as 2005?

Prior to this season, Brad Underwood had produced 3 straight March Madness appearances but with varying levels of heartbreak. Now, the Illini are back in the Sweet 16, an occurrence that has not taken place since Bruce Weber was in Champaign.

The last time Illinois rolled into the second weekend of the tournament came in 2005 when the Illini made it all the way to the national final. That team was dominated by future NBA players Deron Williams, Luther head, Dee Brown, Roger Powell and James Augustine but fell short of a national championship against North Carolina.

This year’s Illinois squad might not even be Underwood’s most talented of his tenure, but they play well together. With Shannon leading the way and Marcus Domask in a support role, Illinois has the right combination in March.

Coleman Hawkins a delightful X-factor

When Coleman Hawkins plays like this, Illinois will always be tough to beat. As a true X-factor, Hawkins does not always see the ball a lot, so his efficiency is a big part of his production.

Against the Dukes, Hawkins was clicking while going 4-for-8 from the field and 3-for-7 from deep. That’s the kind of shooting that takes the 6-foot-10 versatile forward to another level.

That’s not all Hawkins brings to the table as he led the team with 7 rebounds and also produced 3 assists and a steal to go with 11 points. When he’s clicking, it’s another element that simply raises the ceiling of Illinois’ potential.