An Eerie Amount of Similarities for Illini to Last Season’s Collapse

Northwestern Illinois BasketballWhen the Illinois men’s basketball team got off to their hot 12-0 start to kick off the John Groce era in Champaign, most people were talking about how different this team looked than how it did when Bruce Weber was at the helm. It was all about Groce’s fiery attitude and how he got the most out of his players. The 3-point shooting was incredible as they hit 3 after 3 in those opening weeks. Everyone thought this was going to be a completely different year.

Well since that 12-0 start, the Illini have dropped 4 of their last 7 including their last 3 ballgames. Groce is no longer on that pedestal that Illinois fans had him on in the beginning of the season. The creepy thing is how similar these last 2 years have been for Illini basketball.

2011 started out with a good amount of optimism as well, as the Ilini took down ranked Gonzaga at home and also traveled to beat Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. They got off to a 10-0 start before being taken down by UNLV at the United Center followed by another loss to Missouri.

Their second game in Big Ten conference play was a loss at Purdue, which was a bit surprising. The Illini came back to Assembly Hall a couple games later to take down the 5th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. Brandon Paul went off against Ohio State and Illinois fans were back on the bandwagon. Well that was about the last happy moment in the Illini season. Weber’s squad dropped 12 of their last 14 games to finish at 17-15 and miss the NCAA tournament, which led to Weber’s firing.

Now, let’s check out the similarities.

Long Undefeated start? Check.

Win against a ranked Gonzaga team? Check.

Win in ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Check

Lose to Missouri? Check

Lose at Purdue? Check.

Beat a highly ranked Ohio State team at home? Check.

Lose their next 3 games? Check

Miss NCAA tournament? We’ll see.

We’d all like to think that Groce can get these Illini back on track, but after their last loss to lowly Northwestern at home, it’s getting Illinois fans nervous once again. They need to turn this ship around quickly or it might be another lost season in Champaign. The Orange and Blue’s next match-up comes up tomorrow night against another team with less talent than the Illini in Nebraska. Illinois will travel to Lincoln, where their most embarrassing loss of last season came where they were manhandled by the Cornhuskers and were dominated, 80-57. Illinois needs to get off this roller coaster nightmare, and they need to do it quickly.

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