Preview: Illinois Fighting Illini
John Groce continues to make strides in rebuilding the program
2012-13: 23-13 (8-10)
In-conference offense: 1.00 points per possession (6th)
In-conference defense: 1.02 points per possession (6th)
The roster churn is on in Champaign, as the final vestiges of the Bruce Weber era fall away and the future under John Groce begins to take shape. There are plenty of signs that future will be a bright one for the Fighting Illini.
Groce worked wonders with Weber's leftover core last season as Illinois jumped from 17-15 to 23-13, and won just its third NCAA tournament game since 2005 before losing a heartbreaker to Miami in the round of 32. For a while, it looked like Groce -- not a hugely popular choice as Weber's successor -- would be a miracle worker. Illinois won its first 12 games and climbed to No. 10 in the AP poll before falling to Missouri just before Christmas.
With a new focus on ball protection and second-chance points, Illinois jumped from 126th to 41st in Ken Pomeroy's adjusting offensive efficiency rankings. Perhaps just as impressive, Groce oversaw another high-level defensive effort despite the loss of center Meyers Leonard to the NBA. Reality set in once Big Ten play started, as Illinois dropped six of its first eight and ended up finishing in the middle of the pack on both ends of the floor. Ultimately, the university's brass saw enough, handing Groce a fat raise and a contract extension through 2018.
To read the complete 2013-14 preview article on Illinois, plus gain access to previews for every Division I college basketball team, you must be an ESPN Insider.
We see that you are not an ESPN Insider. Upgrade today and gain access to our exclusive coverage.
MORE MEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL HEADLINES
- No. 7 Duke regroups to escape vs. Clemson
- Iowa State ousts Kansas in Big 12 semifinals
- Syracuse falls to NC State in ACC quarters
- Napier, UConn fend off Cincy to reach final
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
2013-14 Insider College Hoops Preview
In the lead-up to the 2013-14 college basketball season, Insider is providing preview articles on every Division I team, as well as essays from Insider's analysts and experts.