Illini Basketball Have NIT, not NCAA Caliber Resume



Heading into Saturday’s tire fire of an effort at Indiana, some bracket projections had this Illini basketball team actually in the NCAA Tournament.

That idea seems D.O.A. now as B1G play exposed Illinois in ways we had not seen in the pre-conference slate. 

The first two road games resulted in a 25 point loss, and a 16 point loss (Indiana is surprisingly #109 in RPI by the way, but you know that will normalize with time) that was window dressed by an epic #FakeRally spurred on by Jalen Coleman-Lands dominating garbage time.

Interesting stat here by the way:

When you read Illini basketball postseason resume articles this season, it won’t be the same old “Illinois Bubble Watch” song. That tune is more overplayed than “Cake by the Ocean,” but the 2017 edition will not be a re-hash of that old standard.

No, this team is very likely NIT bound, plain and simple.

It’s a very small sample size, but no side this inept on the road is going dancing. Illini basketball is much too big and proud (as is any power five conference team worth its salt) to stoop down to the CBI, and other other postseason tournaments not mentioned are just “everybody gets a trophy” pay-to-play nonsense designed to programs lacking in attention some badly needed publicity.

That said, let’s look at what this Illini basketball has done so far, and what their body of work says about where they’re going.

The team is currently 11-5, 1-2 in the league, with a RPI of 43 and SOS of 17. Real Time RPI projects them to finish 18-12, 9-9 in B1G play.

The current status quo, from a metrics stand point, is solid. However, simple forecasting conveys a third NIT appearance in four seasons.

Illini basketball under John Groce has now become the Amy Schumer of college hoops. Forget the past brilliance of several years ago. Today, mediocrity in every manner is the best you can hope for.


Key Wins: NC State (RPI 27) VCU (RPI 31)

Bad Losses: the Hoosiers loss is a glaring resume blemish now, but obviously that will won’t be the case come mid March. Winthrop (RPI 105) is a serious problem though. You need a real signature win to cancel that out to get into the NCAA bubble, and then a second big time win (over a nationally ranked opponent preferably) to have a true shot at going dancing. 

Opportunities for Big Wins: Wisconsin (RPI 49) Jan. 31, Minnesota (RPI 5, no that’s not a typo!) Feb. 4, Michigan State (RPI 38) March 1. 

Potential pitfalls: Michigan’s RPI is 86 so losing tomorrow night would really hurt. Also, Rutgers in the season finale checks in at 130 RPI, and there’s two games left versus Iowa who rank 129. It’s the worst Hawkeyes team in several years., so a sweep is mandatory.

john-groce illini basketball

While RPI is obviously not the end all, be all, it is a great indicator of a win or loss’s general value.

Bottom Line: The B1G is extremely unpredictable this season, and anyone who tells you they have it figured out is lying. Anybody can beat anybody, and while that is usually a Coachey McCoachington Coach ‘em up Coachspevk cliche, now it’s actually spot on.

Illini basketball can’t afford another couple eye sore losses, because this season the league doesn’t provide as many signature wins to cancel that out. The league has parity, but it’s also very down.

jalen coleman-lands

Yes, the bottom feeders are much better, but the top is much weaker. There’s not really any elite teams in the league. While this Illini basketball team has looked like a 9th or 10th place team in the league, you just never really know because the B1G is really down this year. 

Of course, it also means fewer at-large bids than usual will come from the league this year.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports, partnered with FOX Sports Engage Network. and News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, currently contributes regularly to the Chicago Tribune’s RedEye publication. 

He also consistently appears on numerous radio and television talk shows all across the country. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and Sound Cloud

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