Illinois Fighting Illini Tournament Resume: Strengths and Weaknesses



In our latest NCAA Tournament projection, we have the Illini as a #9 seed in the South Regional. Since February is pretty much here- time to think about who needs to shore up the old resume for selection time come March.

At 16-6, 5-4 in conference, RPI 37, SoS 26 and 5-4 and vs the RPI top 50 their profile looks very solid, but not extraordinary. Including that BAD loss at Penn State (WTF is up with that? Seriously, a top notch program like Illinois being dominated in recent years by a program which has like 15 whole fans?).

Half their wins look hideous on paper but that doesn’t really matter. This isn’t based on the polls which can be influenced by margin of victory.


“I don’t care if it’s ugly, when the shots go up I just sit there and say, please God let them go in,” Illini Coach Bruce Weber said after the big win over Michigan State.

“Maybe that’s just how it is and hopefully we’ll get better. I don’t know if we’ll play against a better defensive team (all year). When you look at their stats, they hold people to 39%, and we didn’t get that. We got 32,” Weber continued.

Seriously, the offense looks BAD, like 1999 Nate Mast running point guard bad right now. Actually, Sam Maniscalco’s current level of play might make Illini fans clamor for Mast.

The Illini resume has a lot of strength though. They have three signature victories: #3 Ohio State, #24 Gonzaga (RPI 18) and last night’s aforementioned win over #9 Michigan State. They have seven wins against the RPI top 100.

The losses to #4 Mizzou and #11 UNLV (RPI 8) don’t hurt, because both look like they’ll be seeded near the top of the line come tourney time. And with two chances versus Michigan, and another with Ohio State, not to mention a trip to Indiana remaining on the schedule, more opportunities will come. You gotta think they’ll obtain at least one more signature win before we hit conference tournament time.

Even when they suffer embarrassing losses. The road defeat to Minnesota wasn’t bad, it’s just that they gave, and my “they” I’m really just talking about Meyers Leonard fouling in the final seconds to give the Gophers an “and 1” which essentially blew the entire game.

But they responded nicely, halting the losing streak.

“I’ve heard (New England Patriots Coach Bill) Belichick talk about this, it’s not the loss, it’s what you do with the loss that kills ya, and people say how can you be positive?

And you have to be, what else can you do? The kids need you, if you bring them down any more, than you’re just hurting yourself.”

It was a hard to watch game, especially at the finish, but Weber and the Illini certainly brought themselves way up Tuesday night on national television.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports

A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

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