I don’t have a bracket this year. Just don’t have the inclination. This is what those awful final three games of the Illini season have done. No tourney analysis, no matchups that can’t be missed. Bah.
How does this happen? A question for the coaching staff and all fellow suffering Illini. How do we wake up today and it’s been 10 years since our last deep tourney run. How do you not show up for half the game against Purdue and the entire game against Michigan, when all you need is one win to get in? And as far as that NIT game – let’s all do ourselves a favor and try to forget that one…
We’ve known for some time this team was flawed, capable of bad stretches, offensively challenged at times. But this ending collapse revealed flaws in the whole system – the recruiting, the offensive and defensive systems, the bench coaching… And now we’re all asking ourselves if John Groce can be the guy. Because nearly everyone wants him to be the guy: he works hard, he says the right things, he’s a Midwest and Big 10 type of coach… Really don’t want to head into this off-season with these kinds of questions about him.
One of the worst things on Sunday was tuning in and watching Louisville play, where they just moved their freshman guard Quentin Snider into the starting lineup. Because he’s a better facilitator. Then switching over to watch Notre Dame for a minute, where Demetrius Jackson is a starter, a double-digit scorer, and 50% shooter from the guard position. We were down to the final two schools for both these players (Snider actually committed, then de-commited). We were down to the final two for a couple of very high profile high school seniors this season. Groce has been so close to those top players who would make a difference, but of course that doesn’t matter in March.
So instead, we can watch these other schools and lament our current place in the college basketball scene. For people like me, who grew up with Lou’s teams, the idea of missing the tournament two years in a row is foreign. That’s not Illini basketball… Except, now it is.
Can’t even really think about next year. It’s such a pivotal year… Just keep coming back to the same thought: Come on, Coach Groce be that guy that brings us back.