Why Marcus Domask's NCAA Tourmament triple-double is significant for a deep Illinois March Madness run

Marcus Domask can recall that he had a few triple-doubles when he was senior in high school. That can certainly track for a 6-foot-6 guard who averaged 26.1 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game in high school.

But, Illinois basketball's point guard got one of the most significant triple-doubles of the college basketball season on Thursday.

In the Illini's 85-69 win over Morehead State, Domask scored 12 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished 10 assists to record the 10th triple-double in NCAA Tournament history and the sixth triple-double in Illinois basketball history.

"I think somebody told me he's the 10th player in the NCAA Tournament history to have a triple-double," Underwood said. "That's a pretty special night."

Special, indeed. Especially because Domask's performance Thursday, as well as during the Big Ten Tournament, gives Illinois an X-factor that can take the Illini on a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Even reaching the Sweet Sixteen would be a first for Underwood at Illinois.

Domask joins a rather exclusive group. 

In the history of the NCAA Tournament, there have been 10 recorded triple-doubles. Domask's was the 10th. The most recent was Ja Morant's in 2019.

Also on that list are:

  • Michigan's Gary Grant: 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists vs. North Carolina in 1987
  • LSU's Shaquille O'Neal: 26 points, 13 rebounds and 11 blocks vs. BYU in 1992
  • St. John's David Cain: 12 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists vs. Texas Tech in 1993
  • Utah's Andre Miller: 18 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists vs. Arizona in 1998
  • Marquette's Dwyane Wade: 29 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists vs. Kentucky in 2003
  • Kansas' Cole Aldrich: 13 points, 20 rebounds and 10 blocks vs. Dayton in 2009
  • Michigan State's Draymond Green: 23 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists vs. UCLA in 2011
  • Green, again: 24 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists vs. LIU Brooklyn in 2012
  • Murray State's Ja Morant: 17 points, 11 rebounds and 16 assists vs. Marquette in 2019
  • Illinois' Marcus Domask: 12 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists vs. Morehead State in 2024

This kind of performance on a stage that big with the stakes as high as they can be are exactly why Domask transferred to Illinois from in-state, Missouri Valley Conference program Southern Illinois.

"Through the portal and in the process, me and Coach pretty much just had conversations about winning big games in March," Domask said. "That was the No. 1 thing that I was looking for in a school, and I trusted Coach and felt like we had the opportunity to do that here. This is the time that all the time you put in the gym pays off."

It paid off Thursday, and has paid off consistently this season.

OMAHA, NEBRASKA - MARCH 21: Marcus Domask #3 of the Illinois Fighting Illini shoots the ball over Dieonte Miles #23 of the Morehead State Eagles during the first half in the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at CHI Health Center on

Domask earned First-team All-Big Ten coaches and AP honors, and AP Big Ten Newcomer of the Year honor this season, his last year of eligibility of college basketball. He's using his COVID-19 granted year of eligibility in Champaign after spending four years in Carbondale.

"It's definitely a cool accomplishment to have my name up there with some of the greats, and such few people have done it so far," Domask said. "It's a great accomplishment."

For Illinois, it's also a piece the Illini have never had under Underwood.

In the past, Illinois has had star power like Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. That duo won the 2021 Big Ten Conference Tournament, too. But, they didn't have a player like Domask.

This year, Illinois has its star in Terrence Shannon Jr. and Coleman Hawkins. Domask is a player that can make winning plays which don't show up on a stat sheet.

Domask does a little bit of everything. On the stat sheet, it's clear he can rebound and pass the ball, as well as score at a high rate. So far this season, Domask has scored 30 points or more three times: against Northwestern, Florida Atlantic and Wisconsin in regular season play.

His size gives him length as a defender on the perimeter, which is just one more advantage teams would love to have come tournament time.

Domask is also playing smarter basketball. In Illinois' last five games, Domask has only committed two fouls. That smart play also materializes in how he can set up his teammates up with good looks. 

Assists come when those baskets start to fall.

"It starts with just guys hitting shots," Domask said. "You get assists when the guys hit shots, so when guys hit shots, assists kind of rack up. But other than that I'm trying to play within the game, play within the flow of the game and take what the defense gives me. I try not to force anything and just make the right decisions."

This is all a culmination of Domask's career.

He transferred to Illinois for this exact reason. Getting wins in March is not easy, case in point being Underwood's past Illinois teams that never made it out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

With Domask, Illinois finally has a good chance to reach the second weekend and beyond.

"At this point in my career I'm really past all the personal accolades," Domask said. "At this point in March it's all about winning, and that's really all I'm trying to do."


Instant recap: Illinois beats down Morehead State behind Marcus Domask's triple double

The No. 3 seeded Illini beat up No. 14 seeded Morehead State, advancing to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament with a 85-69 win in Omaha. Here's how the game unfolded.