Struggling Illini Need To Rediscover Their Toughness

groceMy Jan. 18 column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) In January 2013, the University of Illinois basketball team saw a promising nonconference campaign devolve into a potential disaster with a flurry of Big Ten setbacks that included deflating losses to Wisconsin, Northwestern and Purdue.
Sound familiar?

It should, of course, since one year later we’re seeing déjà vu all over again with John Groce’s second edition of the Illini – who just lost to Wisconsin, Northwestern and Purdue to squander a strong first half of the season.

And now, after completing the “easy” part of its Big Ten slate – with a disappointing 2-3 record – Illinois (15-3 overall) enters a gauntlet that’s likely to decide its postseason fate. It begins at 8 p.m. tonight with No. 4 Michigan State at the State Farm Center, and is followed by games vs. No. 11 Ohio State (away), Indiana (away), No. 14 Iowa (home) and No. 3 Wisconsin (home).

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