Oh Illini fans, it has been a long, hard road. In a season many of us expected the team to at the very least compete for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament, we find ourselves sitting on the outside looking in, without even enough hope for an NIT bid. We can look at many reasons for what happened:
Plagued by injuries? Yup.
Questionable lineups? Yup.
No inside presence? Yup.
Flat play in almost every single second half? Yup.
None of the above are valid excuses. At some point during the season, though, you have to take note of what's going wrong and make adjustments. The issue right now? Those 'adjustments' only just started to happen within the last few weeks, after all hope for a postseason appearance was lost.
That said, what's on the horizon for Illinois basketball as the squad closes out the season and begin to look ahead to the 2016-2017 campaign?
Let's start with the obvious: John Groce.
Those fans calling for his head will be sorely disappointed, as I for one do not believe that the DIA (or lack thereof) will make a move on Groce. Groce can be expected to be on the sideline for next season. Injuries are a terrible thing, and they make it impossible for an administration to truly determine the ability or ineptitude of a head coach.
Now in the grand scheme of things, should Illinois move on from John Groce? Well I don't get paid to make that decision. If I did, my answer is a resounding yes. John Groce is a great guy from what I can tell; he's charismatic, likable, an all-around nice guy, etc. In my book, however, injuries stopped mattering a long time ago. At some point, you have to look at the body of accomplishments, and sadly this era of Illini basketball doesn't have many. The players appear to have given up on him, and the loss column is getting bigger and bigger every game.
Look, it isn't all doom and gloom for the Illini. I mean, have you seen Malcolm Hill play lately? The problem is the Illini are missing pieces that you just can't afford to compete without. Maybe the Illini will make a late season push and finish above .500 in order to at least qualify for the NIT. that doesn't appear likely at point, but stranger things have happened.