Proud of My Team
In a season that started with so much promise, the Fighting Illini trailed off early in the Big Ten and hurt their chances at postseason play. Soon after, John Groce made a huge coaching decision, deciding to put two freshmen in the starting lineup - Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill. This tandem energized the struggling Illini, and they began to play their best basketball of the entire season, winning at Michigan State and Iowa, both of which were ranked opponents two of their final three games of the season.
After Nunn and Hill will inserted into the starting rotation, Illinois' defense went from good to great, and their only loss came to the Big Ten regular season champions, the Michigan Wolverines. In the Big Ten tournament, they had a convincing 10-point victory over Indiana in Indianapolis. The following day, they had a rematch with Michigan, and they played them until the very end of the game. Illinois point guard Tracy Abrams had a shot to win the game with a floater (his best shot) at the buzzer, but it came up short, and Illinois fell 63-62 to Michigan. Even though this was the case, I COULD NOT be more proud of my team. They showed up to play every single game, and they were barely ousted in the end by a clearly better team.
Illinois does not have the resume to make the NCAA Tournament, but I strongly believe that they now have the chemistry, talent, and coaching staff to be able to perform better than some of the teams that would in fact make the tournament. They have what it takes to pull off an upset, especially if they played as hard and as hungry as they did against Michigan.
Now that it is over, I am hoping for our seniors sake (Joseph Bertrand, especially) that we get an invite to the NIT. We would probably be a 1-2 seed if they send out an invite, which seems likely. I'm disappointed that we won't get an invitation to the big dance, but I am very optimistic about next season.
Next season, we have two incoming freshmen in Leron Black and Michael Finke who can make an immediate impact for us. We will also have our leading scorer Rayvonte Rice returning, as well as our floor general Tracy Abrams and our big defensive weapon in the middle Nnanna Egwu. We will also have some added experience and skill for our freshman, Nunn & Hill especially. Then finally, we will have our transfer students, Ahmad Starks, Aaron Cosby, and Darius Paul all available at our exposure next season. We will have a very talented, very deep team.
Even though we were snubbed by both Cliff Alexander and Quentin Snider, I still feel as though we will be one of the better squads in the Big Ten next season, and I feel as though we will have an improved record and resume for the big dance next season, and John Groce will help guide us there. I'm very excited, optimistic, and hopeful for next season.
As for this season, I am extremely proud of how much adversity we overcame, and I will truly miss Joseph Bertrand and Jon Ekey.
Good season, boys. Good season.
Indiana Hoosiers. Underacheived in the NCAA last year stopping at the Sweet 16 for the 2nd straight year and boom - back to the NIT. Not sold on Crean - wish we could get Alford back to Bloomington.
And Cream is weird. Something just ain't right bout him
I'm a Wake Forest fan :-(