Friday, March 15, 2013
Groce: Illinois belongs in NCAA tourney
By Scott Powers
CHICAGO -- Illinois coach John Groce said Friday he is confident the Illini accomplished enough this season to be selected to the NCAA tournament.
"At this point, I think we've done what we needed to do, but again that's out of my hands," Groce said following Friday's loss to Indiana in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals. "We have 22 wins. We play in the best conference in the country. We won seven of our last 11 games. Three of those four losses were on the road to teams who were a combined 51-5 at home.
"The fourth one is to Indiana today, who has been ranked No. 1 in the country more than anyone all season. We play good basketball. We're in a good league. We got six top-25 RPI wins, third most in the country. But again, I don't make those decisions. That's them."
ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi had Illinois in his latest bracket on Friday. Lunardi put Illinois as a No. 8 seed playing No. 9 Oregon in the round of 64.
Illinois is ranked No. 62 in ESPN's College Basketball Power Index. The Illini went 6-9 against top-50 BPI opponents. Their quality wins include Gonzaga on the road and at home against Indiana and Ohio State. They also defeated Minnesota twice, including in the Big Ten tournament on Thursday.
Illinois began the season with 12 consecutive wins and shot up to No. 10 in the AP poll. After a 13-1 non-conference season, the Illini dropped seven of their first nine Big Ten games. They bounced back with a win over No. 1-ranked Indiana on Feb. 7 and closed out the conference season winning six of their final nine games.
Illinois did not appear in the NCAA tournament last season and have been there just once during the career of the Illini's seniors.
"We're looking forward to the (selection) show," Groce said. "I know our guys are. We've had that as a goal since we first got together in the spring. The seniors told me that's what they wanted to do. It's pretty cool. We're approaching the date."