Illini tourney possibilities

As Illinois prepares for the final four games of its season, starting with tonight’s tilt against Nebraska at State Farm Center, coach John Groce’s primary focus is geared toward finishing the Big Ten schedule — what he terms “Season 2”
— strong heading into the Big Ten tournament (Season 3).

“We want to keep improving every day, I feel like we’ve done that. I thought we had a great week. I do think we’re getting better,” Groce said. 

Illinois’ second-year coach made it very clear that the goal for his program every year is to play in the NCAA tournament. Barring a remarkable turnaround these next three weeks, that looks like an unlikely destination for the Illini (15-12, 4-10
Big Ten). But if the Illini are shut out from the top two tournaments, Groce wants to coach his team in the CBI even though Illinois can’t play any games at home because of the State Farm Center renovation. On a team with five freshmen and eight eligible newcomers, the more basketball they get to play, the better.

“We want to play in postseason play, there’s no question about that. We want to have an opportunity to play in Season 4,” Groce said. “There’s no question that every practice, every game, every day that goes by with our team, because of who we have on it, guys are gaining experience. Going through this for the first time, any experience is a valuable one. The Big Ten tournament is going to be an experience. Finishing here with the stretch run is going to be an experience with some of these guys, this is the longest season they’ve probably ever had in their careers.” — Marcus Jackson

Oh, the possibilities

Basketball beat writer Marcus Jackson takes a look at the three postseason tournaments available to Illinois and what the Illini have to accomplish to reach each.

NCAA tournament (Defending champion: Louisville)

How Illinois can make it: The lone realistic possibility for the Illini to reach the Big Dance is to run the table in the Big Ten tournament by winning four games in four days at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Thirty-two teams will receive automatic bids by winning their conference tournaments and the remaining 36 at-large invitations are extended to the best remaining teams based on a process overseen by the NCAA selection committee.
Selection date: March 17

National Invitational Tournament
(Defending champion: Baylor)


How Illinois can make it: Though there is no criteria that states a team must finish its season with a record of .500 or better to receive an invitation, every team that has been invited to the No. 2 postseason tournament since the selection process was revamped in 2006 has had a record of .500 or better. With Illinois having a minimum of five games remaining, the Illini would have to win at least one more game to guarantee at worst a .500 record this season just to put itself in position to receive one of 32 bids. When the Illini lost 12 of 14 to close the 2011-12 season with a record of 17-15, they were not one of the teams invited to participate.
Selection date: March 17

College Basketball Invitational
(Defending champion: Santa Clara)


How Illinois can make it: If the Illini are passed up by the NIT selection committee, which is a very strong possibility, this is the likely landing spot for them, as the CBI is considered to be the No. 3 postseason tournament. A fourth postseason tournament, the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, does not consider programs from BCS conferences. The CBI prefers to consider teams with a .500 record or better with a strong strength of schedule and an attractive RPI (Illinois is 85th) but fellow Big Ten member Purdue played in last year’s CBI despite a 15-17 mark following a loss in the opening round of the conference tournament.
Selection date: March 17

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illini82 wrote on February 26, 2014 at 7:02 am

Oh Boy!!!

The CBI tournament!

Can't you just feel the excitement building!

We have to get an invite first. Imagine getting shut out of THAT tournament!

townsend1306 wrote on February 26, 2014 at 11:02 am

Remember, this is a very young team and need anything to help in the development of playing, I'll take anything we can get !Maybe Charles Matthews, read some of the comments from you so call fans and did not want to be told how bad he is when he didn't "ALL AMERICAN" game like we read after every game STOP HATING ON KIDS AND SUPPORT THE TEAM THEN MAYBE WE COULD GET SOME 5 STAR RECRUITS.............................................!