Possible sports photo of the year: Illini coach John Groce and son

john groce

I’m not talking about the picture above; I’m talking about the Chicago Tribune photo after the jump. It’s Illini coach John Groce and his son embracing the moment after knocking off the #1 Indiana Hoosiers, their hated rival. Of course, there’s conflict for Groce as he grew up a huge Hoosiers fan in Muncie, Indiana. And his wife went to IU as well.

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Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Wisconsin Badgers: Brutally Honest Preview

The Illinois Fighting Illini and Wisconsin Badgers have a lot in common in 2012 and it’s not a good thing. Most notably is the unexpected and disappointing starts  for both teams. Neither team looked half-decent against non-conference foes and both lost their Big Ten openers.

The Illini’s new head coach Tim Beckman could already be on the hot-seat and the Wisconsin Badgers are without any kind of identity on the offensive side of the ball.

Let the battle of the Big Ten’s Legends Division begin.

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#63 Illinois Fighting Illini: College Basketball 111 in 111

Welcome to The Sports Bank’s third annual college basketball season preview series.  Two years we looked at 99 teams in 99 days.  Last year, we were slightly more aggressive and expanded to 111 teams in 111 days and will do so again as we look ahead to the 2012-2013 season.

We will rank the 75 power conference teams and top 36 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order.  We’ll break down rosters, transfers, incoming freshmen, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.

After several years of underachieving, Bruce Weber was shown the door as Illinois Fighting Illini head coach and replaced by Ohio’s John Groce.  There is still decent enough talent left on the Illini roster but can Groce right the ship in his first year in Champaign?

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NBA Draft: Don’t draft No Orange “Heeled” Fighting Illini

Carmelo Anthony

I am doing a little research on previous drafts, trying to figure out which players will be successful in the NBA. Here is today’s post about NBA Draft Don’ts. [Read more…]

Illini Whitney Mercilus Entering the NFL Draft

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University of Illinois junior defensive end Whitney Mercilus announced today that he will forgo his senior season at Illinois to enter the 2012 NFL Draft.

 Mercilus who has the best name a defensive line man can have, emerged from total obscurity to have a banner year for the Fighting Illini, tying Simeon Rice’s single-season record and leading the nation with 16 sacks.

He also forced nine fumbles on the season, breaking Illinois and Big Ten records and ranking as the second-most in NCAA history. His 22.5 tackles for loss in 2011 led the Big Ten, rank second in the nation and third in the Illinois record book.

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Illini DE Whitney Mercilus: Best at his Position in the Nation

whitney-mercilus

University of Illinois junior defensive end Whitney Mercilus was named yesterday to the Associated Press All-America first team. That means he’s truly “everybody’s All-American” and he’s been named to 10 different All-America teams. Nine of which were first-team.

He also took home the Hendricks Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive end.

“There’s a lot of great players out there, and I just happened to beat them out. It’s a blessing,” Mercilus said during halftime of a recent Illini basketball game.

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Illini Defensive End Whitney Mercilus Wins Top National DE Award

whitney_mercilus

Illinois junior Whitney Mercilus has won the 2011 Hendricks Defensive End of the Year Award. Mercilus led the nation in sacks, sacks per game and forced fumbles while ranking sixth nationally in tackles for loss per game. He becomes the first Illini national award winner since Dana Howard (1994) and Kevin Hardy (1995) won the Butkus Award (best linebacker in college football) in back-to-back years.

With a name like Mercilus, pronounced merciless, you have to be a college football player. And a player at the very aggressive attacking position of defensive end too- that helps. He’s a man with a name built for his role like former Illini OL Eric Block, or current Buffalo Bills DB Reggie Corner.

Mercilus beat out finalists Frank Alexander (Oklahoma), Andre Branch (Clemson), Vinny Curry (Marshall), Sam Montgomery (LSU) and Nick Perry, Jr. (USC), garnering over half the vote from current and former college coaches, former players, media members and pro football personnel professionals.

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Illini Upset #18 Gonzaga; Illinois is Better than You Think

meyers-leonard-illinois

Even when Illinois is having a down year, or a “rebuilding year,” they still get at least one win in over a ranked team. In 1998-99 and 2007-08 (two college basketball seasons that saw Illinois break the school record for losses) they still beat a couple ranked teams- even if it didn’t happen until the Big Ten Tournament.

It’s a hallmark of where Illinois is as a program, even in lean years they’re serviceable. Most experts expected this season to be a down year in Champaign, and that’s understandable given all the questions marks. However, as today’s solid, comfortable win over a top 20 team shows, the Illini might be a better team than you think they are.

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Illini Open New Season and Court With Victory Over Loyola 67-49

meyers leonard illinois

The state of Illinois has produced only one college basketball national championship, and it wasn’t accomplished by the Illinois Fighting Illini; although they were just a couple 3-pt FGs away in ’05. Depaul made the Final 4 in ’80s glory years under Ray Meyer, but no further. SIU has won a lot of games in March lately, but they haven’t cut down the nets either.

I doubt any of you guessed UIC or Northwestern. It’s actually Loyola, in 1963. The Ramblers also went to the sweet sixteen in 1985, but like all the other college basketball teams in the city of Chicago; they’ve done very little in recent years.

However they gave traditional Big Ten power Illinois all they could handle for about 30/40 minutes, before falling by 18, 67-49 in the season opener for both teams.

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2012 Illini Hoops Most Important Player? Meyers Leonard!

meyers leonard illinois

Last night’s 79-51 exhibition rout of Wayne State was expected for most Illini basketball fans. The most important number of the box score is found in the game’s leading scorer, Meyers Leonard. He had 18 points, in just 16 minutes, that’s a great sign for your Illinois Fighting Illini, because they’ll really need Leonard to be good, if they’re going to be good. [Read more…]

Penn State Gets Gift Win From Pathetic Illinois’ Special Teams, Offense

psu cheerleader

It was one of the ugliest college football games of all time. Certainly one of the ugliest Big Ten games. Not a good showcase of the conference on ABC’s national game. (The national media are going to have a field day ripping the conference after this one). Call it the football equivalent of the infamous 38-33 college basketball game played by these two schools in Champaign 2009.

It was absolutely pathetic on all levels how Illinois (6-3, 2-3 in league play) handed Penn State and Joe Paterno his record breaking 409th win. They completely gave it away.

The Illini offense and special teams were a sick joke in their inability to close the game today, and #19 Penn State (8-1 overall, 5-0 in conference) is now the only remaining unbeaten team in the Big Ten. Who’d have guessed that?

If you like passing and hate punting, this was NOT the game for you. The passing yards in the box score were just ridiculously bad. And you can’t blame it on the weather. Because the snow was only a factor in the first half.

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