Top five sleeper Illinois football coaching candidates


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Illinois football deserves so much better than what it currently has. The Fighting Illini were 63-48-4 (.565) during the 1980s. However, they’ve gone just 110-165-2 (.401) since John Mackovic left town to go Coach Texas. Mackovic’s name is critical because he is the most recent Illinois football head coach to leave on his own accord.

Memorial Stadium in Champaign has become a career graveyard for everybody else since (Lou Tepper, Ron Turner, Ron Zook….Tim Beckman???). With this inconvenient truth in mind, Illinois Athletic Director Mike Thomas is going to have a hard sell on candidates with recent head coaching success.

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Top five Illini football coaching candidates


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Beyond Ws and Ls, Q Rating is a severe issue for Illini football. As awful as Tim Beckman’s 10-24 (2-23 versus the Power 5) record is on the field…take a second to think about the program’s non-existent brand awareness.

Nationally, the Fighting illini do not even register. In their biggest stronghold (Chicago), Illini football is way down in the pecking order. The next hire needs to win games first and foremost, but he also needs to win hearts and minds- immediately!

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Crimson Tide’s Lane Kiffin to Illinois idea gaining momentum


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The idea of Alabama Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin coming to Champaign is starting to gain some legitimacy and momentum. People who work for the Illinois football program were talking about potential Tim Beckman successors this past gameday, and Lane Kiffin is the only name that came up. Not saying these people within the Illini football program are high up, with connections to Illinois Athletic Director Mike Thomas, but they are within the program nonetheless.

More important, Kiffin is the only name they talked about on Saturday. That’s really the only reason I’m writing this piece now is that no other name seems to being discussed at this point. Kiffin is the only name that has come up. That’s how dead the buzz is right now about Beckman’s potential replacement.

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Wes Lunt isn’t himself yet, won’t lead Illini to a bowl


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With two wins necessary to gain bowl-eligibility, Wes Lunt made a timely return. Though Reilly O’Toole did not play bad in two of his three starts he clearly lacked the ability to drive the offense and make the big plays that won Lunt the job in the summer. The senior threw for just 272 yards and three touchdowns, two interceptions; that’s only a hair over 90 yards per game.

By no means can you blame the offensive woes of the Illini solely on his shoulders, but he was certainly not bringing what you would expect from the former Gatorade Illinois Player of the Year with a chip-on-his-shoulder after losing his job to a sophomore transfer.

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Illini WR Mike Dudek: rare bright spot in lost season


Mike Dudek Catch

Champaign, IL- While your statistics professor might give you a decent argument disputing it, Saturday’s loss to Iowa effectively ended the season for the Fighting Illini. Sitting at 4-5, Tim Beckman’s squad needed to win two games to gain bowl eligibility; the team’s primary goal for the 2014 season.

For three quarters, it looked like the Illini might actually notch number five, but the fourth quickly reminded the 50,373 frozen fans (and the thousands of fraternity and sorority members choosing to watch the game at Joe’s and Red Lion instead) that both wins and bowl games in the Tim Beckman era of Illinois Football are not easy to come by.

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Darius Paul reinstated to Illini hoops program


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Darius Paul, the little brother of former Illini great Brandon Paul has been reinstated to the Illini basketball program and will rejoin the team for the 2015-16 season. He is suspended for the entire upcoming season, which begins Friday. This of course due to his arrest back on April 21st, and the charges of resisting a police officer and underage drinking.

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Illini basketball sign nation’s 8th best recruiting class


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There’s been an absence of good news for sports fans in Champaign for quite awhile Welcome to national signing day for college hoops. Illini basketball has recruited a national top-15 class, checking in at No. 8 by 247Sports, No. 11 by Scout and No. 12 by Rivals. This is Groce’s second top-25 class in his three seasons in charge of the Illini program.

Obviously, these rankings are highly subjective and very fluid. With so many prospects still uncommitted and quite a few waiting until the spring, all of the rankings will move up and down. Also, I don’t have to tell you that when it comes to Illini basketball recruiting, anything goes and anything can happen. Still let’s look at this STELLAR Illini basketball recruiting class that John Groce landed.

He’s got Illinois moving in the right direction

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2015 NCAA Tournament Bracketology


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It is tip-off week for the 2014-15 college basketball season.  Here is an extremely early projection of the 2015 NCAA Tournament Bracketology.   You will notice on the Bracket Matrix grades that The Sports Bank’s bracketology has been more accurate than ESPN’s Joe Lunardi four of the past five years.

UPDATED: 10/10/14
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Comprehensive 2014-15 Illini basketball season preview


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With the college basketball season tipping off next Friday, this is your Illini State basketball “starting five,” the five biggest things you need to know/the five most pressing questions.

As it’s the preseason, there are no “knowns.” There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know. Sorry for getting Donald Rumsfeldian on you, here’s your Illini basketball starting five.

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Rayvonte Rice: what Illini basketball fans should expect this year


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Up until mid January, Rayvonte Rice was the leading scorer in the Big Ten last season. However, the season went downhill for both him and his Illinois Fighting Illini at Northwestern. An adductor strain slowed Rice down for awhile, and the Illini offense had major issues. However, Rayvonte Rice and the Illini finished strong. Had it not been for that loss at NU, and probably the home loss to Purdue that happened next, Illinois could have been a NCAA Tournament team.

So this year, can the Illini be a couple games better to get the big dance? I had an exclusive with Rice at Big Ten Media Day and we discussed that topic, as well as other issues.

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John Groce on why he didn’t start the freshmen earlier


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When John Groce decided to start freshmen Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn last season the Illini basketball season turned around completely. Illinois started 13-2, then they had a brutally awful 1-10 stretch in midseason. Many media and pundits (including myself) called for John Groce to shake up the lineup and start his talented freshmen.

It took awhile but finally, Groce made the switch and the Illini beat Minnesota at the barn by 13 points. That lineup then finished a very solid 6-3 down the stretch. So why didn’t John Groce make the switch sooner?

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Nnanna Egwu: perhaps Illini basketball’s most important player


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In Guard Rayvonte Rice, Illini basketball has a true scorer who consistently attacks the basket in Derrick Rose like fashion. In big man Nnanna Egwu they have someone who looks up to Rose. Egwu was extolling the virtues of D Rose at Big Ten Media Day quite a bit. We know that Rose and the Chicago Bulls are going to have a special season.

Perhaps their college hoops cousins Illinois will as well? Egwu will have a lot of influence on that.

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