After the fifth road loss of the season, the Illini fell to 13-10 overall and 3-7 in conference play. In the five road games Illinois has played, they have lost by 23, 16, 25, nine, and four, respectively. These statistics have many long time Illini fans absolutely distraught. This is because Illinois hasn’t missed the NCAA Tournament for four consecutive seasons, since the seventies! However, after each and every blow out loss, the Illini are indeed well on track to do just that, with yet another season slipping away from them.
Under John Groce the Illini have gone 90-71 overall and have never finished better than seventh in the Big Ten conference. Because of the colossal success Illinois basketball had in the early-to-mid 2000’s, the mediocrity that has entailed the program John Groce has built, is simply unacceptable to (at this point) most Illini fans.
For other fans however, it’s not the records and statistics that sour their opinion of coach Groce, it is the actual coaching itself. Many believe his X’s and O’s are simply not up to par with that of other Big Ten coaches. The substitution patterns typically never make sense. Illinois almost never looks prepared coming out of the gate in the first half. After time-outs, Illinois rarely scores off of the set play discussed in the previous timeout. Things like these in addition to the mediocre coaching record, have John Groce’s days as Illinois Basketball’s Head Coach numbered.
Barring a sweet-16 run in the NCAA Tournament, the only other foreseeable reason to keep coach Groce, would be due to his extremely impressive 2017 recruiting class. They have the number one incoming class in the Big Ten and a top 15 recruiting class in the nation. There is no question John Groce can recruit and be in competition for great players, the question is whether or not he can develop them into Big Ten superstars, ultimately impacting the Illini in a positive way, sending them sky rocketing to the top of the conference standings. However these are still what if’s, and leave athletic director Josh Whitman, in a very tough spot.
At this point, the only way that Illinois will surely make the NCAA Tournament, would be to win the Big 1o tournament and secure a spot in the tournament. Can they do it? Will John Groce remain head coach next year? Only time will tell.