Last year’s Illinois Fighting Illini started 10-0, just like this year’s team. They finished an awful 17-15. But those were the Illini of Bruce Weber, not John Groce. With the 85-74 win at #10 Gonzaga last night, the first year coach has now produced the fastest start for a rookie coach in school history.
11 point underdogs, no one gave the Illini a chance. CBS’ Doug Gottlieb called Illinois overrated and predicted the Illini would get thrashed. And many preseason publications predicted the Illini to finish 9th or 10th in the Big Ten.
They were all wrong.
Brandon Paul led the way with 35 points, on 10-16 shooting, 5-9 from three. He spoke of not getting respect. “A lot of people doubted us,” Paul said. “We came into the game as underdogs. We love that stuff.”
Paul’s NBA draft stock is rising. Gonzaga coach Mark Few said he looked like an NBA player. Legendary NBA point guard John Stockton said BP3 was terrific.
The Illini may become the fourth Big Ten team to be ranked in the top ...