Road to Omaha begins
Compared to the likes of first-round opponent Georgia Tech, which is making its 29th NCAA tournament appearance, Illinois has a spotty postseason resume.
The Illini are making their 11th NCAA trip, but the fourth in the past 23 years.
It’s encouraging, however, that this will be Illinois’ second regional appearance in three years. Encouraging, too, that the Illini made it as an at-large selection.
The NCAA selection committee always faces tough choices in filling out its 64-team bracket, and this Illini team got in the hard way rather than through their conference’s automatic bid.
“That’s where I want the program to be,” eighth-year UI coach Dan Hartleb said Monday after learning his team was one of two Big Ten schools in the tournament. “I want this to be something that happens on a regular basis. And as I just told the team, I don’t want this to be a situation where we’re satisfied getting in the tournament. We’ve got to win games and we’ve got to continue to move forward and do things to get into super regionals, get ourselves to Omaha.”