Announcement to all Illinois fans: Take a deep breath…now exhale.
The wait to find out whether or not Illinois was going to make the NCAA Tournament is finally over, and unlike last year, the Illini’s bubble stayed in tack.
Illinois came into today fairly confident they that they were going to make an NCAA Tournament appearance. They had 19 wins, were .500 in Big Ten play, and had solid wins against Wisconsin and North Carolina.
With an extremely weak bubble this year, that was more than enough to land the Illini an NCAA Tournament bid as a 9 seed, where UNLV is their first round opponent.
There is a lot of irony about where Illinois finds themselves, however, that many people may not know about.
UNLV’s head coach, Lon Kruger, was the Illinois Basketball coach from 1996-2000. At Illinois, Kruger compiled a record of 81-48 and three NCAA Tournament 2nd Round appearances before leaving for the NBA.
If the Illini can pull it together and get past UNLV, they will then go up against the Kansas Jayhawks, led by head coach Bill Self.
In case you can’t recall, Self coached at Illinois from 2000-2003. He finished his career at Illinois with a record of 78-24, an NCAA Tournament 2nd Round appearance, a Sweet Sixteen appearance, and an Elite Eight appearance. Self is also responsible for recruiting most players on the 2004-2005 Illinois team that went 37-2 and lost in the the National Championship to North Carolina.
So, the Illini can thank the selection committee for two things: 1) giving them a spot in the tournament and 2) giving Illinois writers plenty of headlines for the week.
Illinois and UNLV will play in Tulsa, Oklahoma at 8:20 PM CST on TBS.