Despite some fleeting moments off success towards the end of February, it’s hard to describe the 2016-17 regular season as anything other than a massive failure for Illinois basketball.
A returning roster full of experience and talent led to NCAA Tournament-or-bust expectations, and quite simply, the team fell far too short of that goal. Head coach John Groce was fired on Saturday afternoon as a result, and the athletic department is already in the early stages of naming a replacement.
However, the year isn’t quite over yet because Illinois (18-14) has just received and accepted another bid to the National Invitation Tournament. The Fighting Illini have been awarded a No. 2 seed during Sunday night’s selection show, and they’ll face No. 7 seed Valparaiso (24-8) in the first round. The game is set to take place March 14 at 6:15pm CT.
Illinois AD Josh Whitman has already announced that Groce will not be coaching his now-former team in the NIT. Instead, assistant coach Jamall Walker will take over the position on an interim basis for the rest of the season.
Unlike the program’s last trip to the NIT, Illinois will have the opportunity to host games in Champaign against lower-seeded teams for the first two rounds. Should the team advance past that point, they’ll be forced to play at an opposing venue because State Farm Center has already been booked during the Third Round. That means Illinois can look forward to a potential matchup at No. 1 Illinois State if their portion of the bracket results in chalk. This format of campus sites continues until the tournament travels to Madison Square Garden for the Final Four.
The NIT has been used as a sort of testing ground for experimental rules over the past few years. The following alterations will be put into place this March:
- Two 10-minute segments each half (2nd segment starts at 9:59)
- Team fouls reset to 0 at end of each segment
- Teams limited to 4 personal/technical fouls per segment (each additional foul: 2 FTA)
- OT: Teams limited to 3 personal/technical fouls (each additional foul: 2 FTA)
We’ll be updating this post with the entire 32-team NIT bracket shortly. In the meantime, drop down to the comments to share your thoughts on Illinois’ next game.
2017 National Invitation Tournament Bracket
No. 1 Syracuse hosts No. 8 UNC Greensboro
No. 4 Monmouth hosts No. 5 Ole Miss
No. 3 Indiana hosts No. 6 Georgia Tech
No. 2 Georgia hosts No. 7 Belmont
No. 1 Cal hosts No. 8 CSU Bakersfield
No. 4 Colorado State hosts No. 5 Charleston
No. 3 BYU hosts No. 6 UT-Arlington
No. 2 Houston hosts No. 7 Akron
No. 1 Illinois State hosts No. 8 UC Irvine
No. 4 UCF hosts No. 5 Colorado
No. 3 Utah hosts No. 6 Boise State
No. 2 Illinois hosts No. 7 Valparaiso
No. 1 Iowa hosts No. 8 South Dakota
No. 4 TCU hosts No. 5 Fresno State
No. 3 Alabama hosts No. 6 Richmond
No. 2 Clemson hosts No. 7 Oakland
Round 1, March 14-16
Round 2, March 17-20
Quarterfinals, March 21-22
Semifinals, March 28
Final, March 30