Season in review: Illini F Michael Finke

Illini Inquirer basketball analyst Sean Harrington analyzes Michael Finke's first season on the court for the Illini, compares his early success with his Big Ten struggles and sets expectations for the forward's sophomore season.

Harrington's Season in Review columns

Malcolm Hill

Jalen Coleman-Lands

Season in Review

Key Stats: 7.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.2 blocks, 43.5 FG%, 65.1 FT%, 36.7 3FG%

Sorry for the cliché, but 2015-16 was a tale of two seasons for redshirt freshman Michael Finke. His non-conference was way better than anyone expected. Finke averaged 10.3 points per game during 13 nonconference games and was the most efficient scorer on the team, shooting 57.0 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three. But during Big Ten regular-season play, Finke averaged 5.1 points and shot 31.3 percent from the field and 28.1 percent from three. That's not bad for a freshmen, but it was a huge drop from the non-conference slate. Finke's effort and energy were never a question, however. He also proved to be a versatile offensive weapon. Finke stretches the defense with his range and also is a very good passer. With a positive assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.03, he proved he values possessions. During Big Ten play, the competition got tougher (longer and more athletic too) and the scouting reports improved. Finke was taken out of his game in the Big Ten. Another telling stat: Finke attempted 2.8 threes a game during the nonconference season and attempted 3.7 threes a game against Big Ten teams. He settled too often for the outside jumper.  

Offseason Focus

Finke has done a great job of transforming his body since he arrived on campus. He must continue those gains this offseason. Adding strength will greatly help Finke's game. First, it will give him confidence to mix it up inside more, It also will improve his interior offensive game, allowing him to avoid some scoring droughts (due to settling for jumpers) and get to the line more. Finke did not look to score on the blocks much. When he did get the ball inside, he didn't have a go-to move. Finke must work a lot on the blocks and develop two moves: a strong move and a counter. He must react on the block rather than thinking. Each day, Finke should do a couple medicine ball circuits -- a medicine ball is a weighted ball -- to improve his explosion and quickness to the rim. Too often, he did not finish or had to gather himself before he went up. These circuits would really improve this part of his game.  

Finke was a really good shooter this year and needs to continue to shoot threes off the catch. This was by far his best offensive contribution. He needs to make 50 to 100 catch-and-shoot threes every day.  

Finke was used in a lot of ball screens and needs to work on those shots. It's important for him to get shots up after setting a screen and popping to improve his footwork and muscle memory. Working both sides of the floor will allow him to be effective in ball-screen situations on the right and left sides.  

Lastly, it is important for Finke to work on a mid-range game off one or two dribbles. He should do some drills where he catches the ball outside the arc and works on rip-and-go moves. He also should work on shot fakes that lead to mid-range shots. Teams are flying at him to force him off the line. A mid-range game can combat this and make him more versatile and tougher to defend. With a midrange game, he will not have to dribble into traffic and can avoid some turnovers off the dribble.

2016-17 Expectations

Because of his work ethic and skill, Finke could have a very good sophomore season. Next season, he could score between 8-10 points per game. To improve these numbers though, he will need to score around the block to avoid droughts and get to the free throw line 60-plus times (he had just 43 this past season). He shouldn’t rely on the three quite as much. More than half his shots (53 percent) this season were three-point attempts. That's too high. By adding some strength in the offseason, Finke should be a 5+ rebound-per-game guy. His three-point percentage should be in the upper 30s. This will allow him to use his one- or two-dribble game after a shot fake to get to the mid-range shots he worked on during the offseason.    

Sean Harrington is the basketball analyst for and also serves as a color analyst for ESPN. He played for four NCAA Tournament teams at Illinois, from 1999-2002. He also served on coaching staffs for Rick Majerus, Bill Self, Rob Judson and Bruce Weber. Follow him on Twitter @smharrington24.

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