Illini Fall, But Groce’s Arrow Is Still Pointing Up

Illinois v WisconsinFriday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) With Illinois trailing Michigan in the second half of the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals on Friday, Illini junior Rayvonte Rice grabbed the basketball, raced down the court on a one-man fast break and leapt off the floor for a what looked to be a sure one-handed dunk.

Instead, it resulted in an air ball.

“The ball just slipped out of my hand,” Rice sheepishly explained after a game the Illini ultimately lost 64-63. “There ain’t no other way to say it.”

And with that one-point loss to the Wolverines – one that ended with Tracy Abrams’ floater bouncing off the front of the rim as time expired – a huge upset of No. 1-seeded Michigan and a potential berth in next week’s NCAA Tournament also slipped out of the Illini’s hands.

There ain’t no other way to say it.

For Illinois, it was a quality finish to the regular season but a tough way to end it. After all, the Illini, who had won five of their previous six games, certainly had their shots to knock off a Wolverines squad that had crushed them 84-53 at State Farm Center only 10 days ago. But like Rice and Abrams, the Illini just couldn’t quite hit them.

So, while the season isn’t yet over for the Illini with the NIT likely looming, the season’s big dreams now are. And as Illinois waits this weekend to learn its exact postseason destination, the question is, which direction is head coach John Groce’s compass now pointing in the eyes of Illini nation?

Continue reading at