Poll Position: Are Illini for real?
It didn't turn out that way. Weber's team was ranked in the mid-teens nationally in both major polls to start the season, and they began Big Ten play 3-0. From that point on, however, the Illini never once won two consecutive games. And while Illinois did make the NCAA tournament and blew out UNLV in Lon Kruger's final game at the helm of the Rebels, Weber's men were brushed aside easily by Kansas in the round of 32.
This season Illinois returns just one starter -- 6-foot-3 junior D.J. Richardson -- but these young Illini are 8-0, and debuted in the Coaches Poll at No. 22 after defeating then-No. 18 Gonzaga 82-75 in Champaign on Saturday. Is it finally time to believe in the orange and blue once again? The next 30 days should tell all.
Read the entire story.
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Powers is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997. He joined ESPNChicago in May 2009 and lives in Chicago.
Rittenberg joined ESPN.com in 2008 after four years at the Daily Herald, where he covered sports at Notre Dame, Northwestern, DePaul and several other colleges. He lives in Chicago and writes for the Big Ten blog.
Bennett joined ESPN.com in August 2008 after nine years at The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., where he covered college sports and the University of Louisville beat. He lives in Louisville and writes for the Big Ten blog.
Fortuna joined ESPN.com in 2011 after working for MLB.com and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, where he covered college sports. He grew up in New York and is a Penn State graduate. Fortuna's Notre Dame blog is here.
2015 TOP ILLINOIS FOOTBALL RECRUITS
|1. Terry Beckner Jr.||93||DT||Missouri|
|2. Gabe Megginson||81||OT||Illinois|
|3. Trevor Ruhland||80||OG||Notre Dame|
|4. Natereace Strong||80||RB||Missouri|
|5. Miles Boykin||80||WR||Notre Dame|
|6. Spencer Tears||80||WR||N. Illinois|
|7. Leon Thornton||80||WR||Indiana|
|8. David Edwards||79||ATH||Wisconsin|
|9. Billy Bahl||79||QB-PP||Miami (OH)|
|10. M. Dew-Treadway||79||DE||Notre Dame|
|View the complete list »|
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