The #7 seed Illini hoops team begins their quest to win 6 in a row in the NCAA Tournament Friday afternoon versus #10 seed Colorado. Illini hoops may just be the greatest program in the history of college basketball NOT to have ever won the national championship. I'm not the first one to make this argument.
Illinois heads to Austin, the capitol of Texas, where they'll play under the Friday night lights (well sort of, it'll be indoors but still night time in Texas when their game is done) needing the mantra of "clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose" to manifest the march madness cliche of "survive and advance." Illini hoops begins The Big Dance with a Texas two step of the Colorado Buffaloes, and hopefully the winner of #2 seed Miami and #15 Pacific. Although highly unlikely, Pacific, the alma mater of former Illini football coach Ron Turner, would be a better draw.
Illini hoops is making its 30th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament, which is the second-highest number of Tournament appearances among Big Ten schools, trailing only the Indiana Hoosiers (37). Illinois ranks 13th among NCAA schools for most all-time Tournament appearances. This is Illini hoops 11th NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 14 years, and 25th in the last 33 years. The Illini have compiled a 39-30 (.565) record all-time in NCAA Tournament games.
Since 1975, when the field was increased to 32 teams, Illinois has advanced to the Sweet 16 eight times, the Elite Eight four times, and the Final Four twice. Illinois has made five appearances in the NCAA Final Four, finishing as the national runner-up in 2005 (if only Luther Head made two more threes, if only the refs didn't give Sean May the Jared Sullinger treatment, if only Sean May choose not to play like Shaq that game), placing third in 1949, 1951 and 1952 and tying for third in 1989.
A star of that '89 team, the Flyin Illini, Kendall Gill made national headlines today for punching former Northwestern player and BTN analyst Tim Doyle after a show on Comcast SportsNet. But once that ball is tipped late Friday afternoon, this story will be forgotten and people will be obsessed with their brackets. Speaking of brackets, no one is picking Illini hoops to win it all, but remember #8 seed Villanova got it done in 1985, so crazier things have happened.
President Barack Obama picked his home state team to win their first game, and lose to Miami.
Here's the Illini hoops all-time series with all three potential opponents.
#10 Colorado (3-1)
12-16-1957 64-46 W Champaign
12-12-1960 81-90 L Boulder
1-31-1987 69-65 W Champaign
12-30-1987 86-68 W Denver
#2 Miami (1-0)
12-28-1968 86-76 W Miami
#15 Pacific (1-0)
12-13-1958 85-67 W Champaign
By the way, here’s the Ultimate Illini guide to visiting Austin.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Google News site generating millions of visitors. He’s an author who also contributes regularly to MSN, Fox Sports , Chicago Now, Walter Football.com and Yardbarker
Banks has appeared on Comcast SportsNet and the History Channel, as well as Clear Channel, ESPN and CBS radio all over the world. President Barack Obama follows him on Twitter (@PaulMBanks)
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