The Illini were huge in Chicago in 2005, and if they can upset #2 seed Miami today, they just might be again. If the Illini make it to the next weekend, and this becomes a regular thing -Illini basketball- playing deep in the NCAA Tournament, Chicago will truly be more of an Illini town. The more they win in the big dance, the more the media will cover them, and the more Chi-city bandwagon college basketball fans will jump on board the bandwagon. Like they did in 2005 when the Illini went to the national title game. I explored this in detail here. University of Illinois Athletic Director Mike Thomas is aggressively promoting the Illini athletic programs in Chicago and Illini hoops coach John Groce has re-opened the recruiting pipeline to the Chicago Public League. Bruce Weber, for whatever reason could not do the CPL right.
Dyeing the river orange, hosting an Illini football game at Soldier Field, having a Chicago Homecoming and landing star CPL recruits will all help to make Chicago more of an Illini town.
But the best way to market the Illini product is through victories. And the best way to obtain more publicity is by winning on the brightest stage.
The Illini beat a very tough Colorado team Friday in the NCAA opening round. Meaning John Groce has as many NCAA Tournament victories in his first season in Champaign, as his predecessor, Bruce Weber had during his final six.
I got some quotes from Brandon Paul and John Groce on this topic, and I explore this in more detail here.
Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, an author and regular contributor to MSN, Fox Sports , Chicago Now, Walter Football.com and Yardbarker. Banks has appeared on Comcast SportsNet and the History Channel, as well as Clear Channel, ESPN and CBS radio all over the world. President Barack Obama follows him on Twitter (@PaulMBanks)