B1G Basketball power rankings: Black Wednesday edition


tom izzo b1g  michigan state basketball

“Wisconsin should be the pick of the litter, they have everybody back from a Final Four team, but two through ten, you’re going to be able to flip coins,” said the dean of B1G coaches, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo.

Yeah, pretty much! So let’s go make the argument for each one, 2-10.

As well as 11-14 too.

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Illini hoops: 2nd best “NBA factory” in the Big 10


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Illini Hoops is the second best program in the Big Ten and tied for 15th best overall when it comes to producing quality NBA players. The Illini are tied with Oregon and Georgia Tech in that 15th slot. Ohio State is the Big Ten’s best, and 11th overall (tied with Syracuse). UCLA, as we’ve detailed here, is the best overall.

Note: this is similar to another study that ran in the Wall Street Journal, which found Illinois to be the number one school in the nation when it comes to NFL starters per win ratios. That is Illini football was the program most embodying a successful NFL farm system, despite not winning with it all talent.

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Illini vs Northwestern: Foster Farms Bowl play-in game preview


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Said Illini Head Coach Tim Beckman at yesterday’s news conference: “It’s almost like a playoff game, you got to keep winning to keep playing.”

“It kind of comes down to a one game season,” said Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald.

That’s right, 5-6 Illinois at 5-6 Northwestern. This year, the LOL Trophy game isn’t just LMAO or ROTFL, it’s also meaningful. It’s for more than the Land of Lincoln hat. It’s for a bowl berth. Probably a bowl you’ve never heard of. The Foster Farms Bowl is in a great location (the San Francisco 49ers brand new home in Santa Clara). If the winner of this game doesn’t get some “California Love,” then they’re relegated to Detroit. (That’s what the Quick Lane Bowl is called this year)

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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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Illini football fans split on coaching change or bowl appearance


illini football bill cubit

The Illini football fanbase is pretty much split evenly when it comes to what they’d rather have: a coaching change, or a bowl berth. You already know where I stand. I’ll let you make up your mind, by voting in the poll here.  I’ve watched the poll results since Saturday, and they swing 45-55% both ways. Meaning Illini football fans are limbo right now. A win on Saturday will please as many as it will disappoint.

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Illini basketball has improved DRAMATICALLY this season


john-groce illini basketball

There were quite a few games last season when Illini basketball had major issues scoring. Clemson in the NIT, at Northwestern, Ohio State, IPFW were just a few of the many times we saw Illinois put up halftime point totals that were in the teens or low twenties. Watching their half-court sets was often as enjoyable as logging into HealthCare.Gov.

Well, it’s a brave new world this season. Watching this Illini basketball team run their offense is way more fun and exciting than paying utility bills online. Illinois followed up their 114 point barrage over Coppin State with a 107 point explosion versus Austin Peay.

It’s not going to be this good all year obviously, but it will be way better than last year.

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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.

(Update: list of 5 leading potential Illinois Head Coaching candidates)

(Update: list of 5 “under the radar” or “sleeper” potential Illinois Head Coaching candidates)

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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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