Five Worst Moments of the 2010-11 Illini Hoops Season

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Bruce Weber Illinois

The Illinois Fighting Illini came into this year with across-the-board top 15 preseason national rankings. Yet here they are receiving no votes at all (deservedly so) in either poll for the past few weeks, under .500 in conference, and squarely on the NCAA bubble.

In other words, grossly underachieving and not even remotely close to meeting expectations. And it’s not just this year’s expectations. The current nucleus (Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale, Demetri McCamey) have been starting for three straight years. So one would expect them to peak this season…so much for that! Throw in a recruiting class that was highly regarded on a national college basketball level, and this WAS the year Illini fans have been looking to since 2008.

Kind of depressing isn’t it? Go here for more on that. It’s a very emotional description of how soul-sucking this season has been for the Illini fan base. What follows is a more anecdotal and objective description of the same soul-sucking season from hell.

By Paul M. Banks

bruce weber demetri mccamey

I know what you’re saying “Only 5?!?!

What about the upset at Indiana? The fact that three teams have rushed the court against them? Tisdale’s failure to show up in countless big games? The highly regarded freshmen doing very little? Weber’s ridiculous line-up shuffling conveying desperate grasping at straws?…and on and on…Well, 10 was just too much for me.

Reading these five will make Illini fans feel suicidal enough as it is.

Enjoy!

5. Failing to Close out Purdue and Ohio State at home

Read on to see why I combined these two moments into one. Many people call this team unpredictable and to some extent that is true. I get why people think this team is hard to figure. But you can always count on two things in 2010-11: they don’t win conference road games (they have one more than DePaul this season), and they never pull upsets over better teams.

They had a very good chance to give #1 and undefeated at the time Ohio State their first loss, but right around the 12 minute mark they instead shifted their play from loose and free to “trying not to lose.” Against Purdue, they held a second half lead, but because this team has no leadership at all, and the seniors are all mental midgets, so no one rose up to motivate them. And they left both top ten teams off the hook.

4. Giving up a decade’s worth of points

On Tuesday, the Illini gave up 89 points in Columbus. That’s the most for a regulation game since 2001.

3. Demetri McCamey’s midseason disappearance

Wow, did he pick the wrong time to have a slump. Over a very crucial portion of the season, his FG% dipped into the twenties. And he was a total no-show in both of the games mentioned in #5.

2. 26 point turnaround/collapse at Northwestern

Illinois KILLED Northwestern at home. That 25 point spread in the first game might as well have been 55. Yet they couldn’t win on the road against the same exact team just a couple weeks later? A home-road swing is worth 26 points? How is that even humanly possible? If you try to find any more logic in that, your head will explode.

1. The UIC debacle

    Who knew that one of the worst losses in school history would start the death spiral? Why did the Illini use their premium United Center game to schedule their sister school located across the street? And even scheduling this game, win or lose, does nothing to help your RPI. This wasn’t just a historic win for UIC, it was by far the biggest win of the year for a Flames team that is 7-22, 2-15 in conference.

    Brian Barnhart, the voice of the Illini, on Big Ten Network’s  “the Journey” said this game proved “they can’t handle success.” And when someone that close to the team, the actual mouthpiece says it…And it’s true, this team, especially the seniors are afraid of success. To quote Yoda, “and that is why you fail.”

    But hey, at least the football team got a bowl win, and college football spring practice starts soon. Never thought you’d hear that phrase about the Illini!

    Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net. He is also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

    He does a weekly radio segment on Chicagoland Sports Radio.com and Cleveland.com

    You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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