Illini all-time leading scorer Deon Thomas joins UIC Coaching Staff

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Deon Thomas has landed a coaching gig at the University of Illinois. Just not in Urbana-Champaign. At the Chicago campus instead. When Assistant Coach Isaac Chew departed Illinois for Marquette, just weeks after he left Mizzou to join the Illini an assistant gig opened up under John Groce at Illinois.

Paris Parham filled the position instead ofFlorida State assistant Dennis Gates, Simeon Coach Robert Smith and Deon Thomas. All were considered candidates.

It was just announced minutes ago Illini fans, that Deon Thomas will be on Howard Moore’s staff at UIC.

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More Illini NCAA Tourney wins would be huge for Chicago

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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.

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Illini hoops get commit from top 15 center Maverick Morgan

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Filling the void left by Meyers Leonard will be tough, but the Illinois Fighting Illini may have an answer…in 2013-14 with the commitment of preps star Maverick Morgan from Ohio. If he does have NBA potential later wouldn’t it be cool if he were drafted by Dallas?

Morgan chose the Illini over the Dayton Flyers, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin Badgers and Xavier. He attends Springboro High School in Springboro, Ohio and plays for the Martin Wolverines during the club basketball season.

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Illini big man Meyers Leonard states case at ’12 NBA Draft Combine (video)

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Former Illinois Fighting Illini Center Meyers Leonard greeted the media yesterday at the 2012 NBA Draft combine. Here’s some of what he had to say about the process.

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Top 5 things Illini fans would miss about Bruce Weber

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It’s complete turmoil in Illini basketball nation right now, but don’t feel too bad for them for much longer. Nebraska Cornhuskers coach Doc Sadler had to help wipe away the tears of Bruce Weber following the Illini loss by 23 in Lincoln (the Huskers were up 32, and as decorum dictates wisely took their foot off the gas pedal and it could have been worse). Weber’s fate appears sealed in Champaign, and if the University does dismiss him at the end of the season, he’ll receive a $3.9 million buy-out.

Everyone hates to lose, and to fail, but $4 million dollars can remove a lot of tears quickly. Likewise with Meyers Leonard, who’s crying image was all over the web, if he gets his head right, truly gets his game together, in a year or two, some NBA team will cut him a check that gives him a lot of reasons to smile instead of cry. Brandon Paul wasn’t publicly crying, even though looking at his turnovers stats causes Illini nation to. If he cleans that up, he could probably get his someday too.

So there will be rainbows ahead for some of the Illini. Including Bruce, who will eventually land a fine mid-major college basketball head coaching job if he decides that’s what he wants. While everyone is understandably (and often deservedly) criticizing Weber right now, let’s look at the positive attributes he brought to his eight years in Champaign.

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Embattled Illini avoid first winless February since 1907

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The college basketball season is only five months long, so any time you’re talking about a winless month, it’s not a good sign. And in their seventh and final game of the year’s shortest month, the Illini would not come up short.

They picked up a 65-54 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes, avoiding the February donut, which hasn’t happened to the program since 1907.

The Illini also improved their record vs Iowa at home to 61-14 all time; they’ve won 11 in a row at Assembly Hall vs. the Hawks and seven in a row overall against the team from Iowa City.

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Illini basketball season follows same depressing path as Illini football season

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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

For Illini fans in 2011-12, both were true.

In both revenue producing sports.

On the college football gridiron, Illinois started 6-0, on the strength of some ugly wins: (Northwestern, Western Michigan), and ascended to #16 in the nation. They lost as favorites to Ohio State, then became the first team in FBS history to finish 6-6 after starting 6-0. This utter collapse prompted Athletic Director Mike Thomas to buy out coach Ron Zook’s contract, and the Illini won a bowl game after firing a coach over a team which also fired it’s coach.

Thus far, the Illini basketball season has been pretty much the same entire bi-polar story.

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Illini Coach Bruce Weber clarifies, apologies for defeatist comments last night

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Illinois Coach Bruce Weber sounded like a dead man walking last night in his post game press conference. Following the Illini home loss to Purdue, which effectively killed his team’s NCAA Tournament at-large chances, Weber sounded very defeatist when meeting the media.

He called out some of his own players (Meyers Leonard, for his body language specifically), gushed over some of his opponents’ players, reflected on the last three years, and apologized for some of the things that went on during his regime in Champaign.

Basically, it sounded a lot like a guy who was saying goodbye, and letting it all out on the way to the door.

Today, he issued a statement explaining himself through the University (obtained via ESPN Chicago):

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Just how shaky is Illini coach Bruce Weber’s Job Security?

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The Assembly Hall crowd in Champaign called for Bruce Weber’s head. Illini fans in B Section screamed “pack your bags” and “I can draw up a better offense.” This has gone on for years, except this time there was one major difference- No one in the orange and blue crowd stuck up for Bruce.

And this happened during one of this year’s signature wins, a victory over a top ten Michigan State team. Illini Nation seems to be totally fed up with Weber. He’s about as well liked as point guard Sam Maniscalco, who acts like a black hole in the offense. His field goal and three-point percentages are so low that on those rare occasions he hits a shot, it seems like a miracle has occurred.

Down at courtside on this night you could hear Weber screaming “MOVE MOVE MOVE!” Because there’s just no motion in his motion offense; a system that has produced only a .500 record in conference since the Champaign Campaign national runner-up year of 2005.  And Mansicalco is a big example of what’s wrong with Weber’s decision making: giving more playing time to grindy, hustle players instead of the talented ones.

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’11-’12 Illini Bare Disturbing Resemblance to ’98-’99 Team

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Bruce Weber has his 2011-12 Fighting Illini in real good shape to make the NCAA Tournament, with his third big, signature win coming just the other night over Michigan State. Yet he’s on both the hot seat and the bad side of Illini Nation. (Much more on this in a quickly upcoming post) Why?

Style points. Illini basketball is “sexy” alright, sexy as Camryn Manheim or Kathy Bates.

Their 42-41 win over MSU was the fewest points the program has scored in a win since 1946! Even though this teams look destined to hit Black Jack (21 wins) when the regular season ends, they still have an alarming amount of similarities to the 1998-99 team coached by Lon Kruger that set the school record for losses by going 14-18.

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Illinois Fighting Illini Tournament Resume: Strengths and Weaknesses

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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.

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Spartans’ Leading Scorer/Rebounder Draymond Green Leaves Game With Serious Leg Injury

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The Big Ten’s leading rebounder, and best player on the nation’s 9th ranked team may be out for awhile. Michigan State forward Draymond Green seriously hurt his left leg in tonight’s mild upset loss to the Illini, and left the game with 3:50 left, unable to walk on his own power.

Green was down on the Assembly Hall floor in Champaign for quite awhile, and after examination was able to hop over on his one good leg to the MSU bench.

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