Illini Hoops Season Set To Begin, So Breathe Easy

My Friday, Nov. 8, column from CBS Chicago

Lewis Illinois Basketball(CBS) It’s not just a new season for the Fighting Illini basketball team.

It’s a different world.

A year ago, with Illinois fans down in the dumps over football and basketball programs that had devolved into twin disasters, John Groce managed to flip the Illini’s fortunes.

In his debut campaign, he knocked off the nation’s No. 1 team and guided the Illini to Round 2 of the NCAA Tournament. Not bad for the perceived No. 3 choice for the job. Today, Groce has Illinois basketball on such a recruiting roll that he just might end up snaring the program’s biggest fish in a generation with Chicago Curie’s Cliff Alexander.

But in between last season’s success and Alexander’s anticipated college decision one week from today, Groce & the Illini have a basketball opener to play at 7 p.m. tonight against Alabama State at the State Farm Center. And much like last year, they’re again facing a season filled with big question marks, even if they are different ones this time around.

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