Bruce Weber’s firing likely to generate a lot of unlikely replacement candidates


INDIANAPOLIS – What started as speculation this morning has turned into confirmed reports.

Bruce Weber, coach of the Illinois Fighting Illini for the past nine seasons, has been fired.

That shouldn’t surprise you, and neither should the impending rumors and unrealistic replacements that get Illinois fans excited and non-Illinois fans laughing.

Already names like Shaka Smart, Frank Martin and Anthony Grant are making the rounds, and while they don’t fall out of the realm of possibilities, they certainly should all be chased with a dose of reality before jumping to conclusions that this program will unquestionably make a splash when replacing Weber.

Simeon high school head coach Robert Smith may also be in the mix, which basically is a euphemism for “Jabari Parker’s chances for committing to Illinois just increased”.

What will be interesting to track in this developing story is what is deemed as a suitable replacement by Illini fans. A fan base that constantly complains about missing out on elite recruts from the Chicago-area, that same sort of distorted reality will likely carry over to who should be the next coach of their beloved program.

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We saw this last season with NC State. Before they hired Mark Gottfried – an adequate and fair hire – Wolfpack fans were sure they would land a Rick Barnes or Sean Miller;  someone that would restore glory to their program. It didn’t happen, nor should it have.

According to reports, Weber’s salary in Champaign was $1.5 million this season. This figure exceeds the reported salaries of all the aforementioned coaches with the exception of Grant, but not by much. Martin rakes in $1.3 million a year and Smart – who will probably become the most coveted guy in this search –  just got a fresh new eight-year deal worth a reported $9.6 million to stay on as coach of VCU.

Already, the media is nudging Smart on his interest level, and already the vague canned answers are flowing.

Whether or not he can be lured back to the part of the country he grew up in, on the heels of grabbing an incredibly secure job in Richmond, is entirely undetermined at this point.  Would Smart even want to get involved with a program that will expect results from day one? Financially, he’s already been rewarded for his Final Four run.

Where Illinois thinks they stand in the hierarchy of college basketball, compared to where they actually stand, will be fascinating to watch unfold.  You and I think they’re “third cut” when it comes to program prestige. The Orange Krush think they’re “second cut.” Many schools have this problem, but it seems to abnormally pervade Illinois.

What the college basketball coaching fraternity thinks about Illinois, paired with the school’s budget, will be what determines Weber’s replacement.

Follow Nick Fasulo on Twitter @billyedelinSBN.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Kris Dunn vs. Denzel Valentine; Two 6-0 teams from Ohio battle in Orlando

Kris Dunn
AP Photo
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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 3 Michigan State vs. Providence, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

Two Player of the Year candidates lock horns on Sunday night as Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine battles Providence’s Kris Dunn. Both players are strong threats to record a triple-double each time they take the floor and both are key reasons why their teams are 6-0. The Friars could probably use this game a bit more than Michigan State since they enter this game unranked and could use another confidence-boosting win for a team filled with newer players. As for the Spartans, winning the Wooden Legacy would mean another great accomplishment before December even started for a team that has national title aspirations.

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: No. 23 Xavier vs. Dayton, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

These two 6-0 teams from Ohio will meet in Orlando in the championship game of the AdvoCare Invitational. The Musketeers have six different players averaging at least 9.7 points per game this season as they’ve received great balance on the offensive end. As for Dayton, Charles Cooke as emerged as a go-to player early this season while guard Scoochie Smith has also been outstanding. This will be the first time these two schools have played since Feb. 16, 2013.


  • One of the fun teams to watch this week has been Monmouth and their amusing end-of-bench antics. On the floor, the Hawks knocked off Notre Dame and gave Dayton a scare and they’ll face USC for the second time this season to close out the AdvoCare Invitational. The Trojans won the first one 101-90, but this is a 12:30 p.m. EST tip, so that could benefit Monmouth the second time around.
  • Wisconsin visiting No. 7 Oklahoma is an intriguing Sunday matchup. The Badgers could certainly use a true road win here as they’re off to a 4-2 start. The Sooners get more of a real test after only playing Memphis as a notable opponent their first three games.
  • Also going on in the AdvoCare Invitational is No. 20 Wichita State facing Iowa and No. 17 Notre Dame battling Alabama. The Shockers are going without senior starters Fred Van Vleet and Anton Grady as they try to escape Orlando with a win. Notre Dame is hoping to close out the event strong after its surprising upset to Monmouth.
  • Action also continues in Anaheim at the Wooden Legacy as No. 11 Arizona will take on Boise State, while Boston College plays Santa Clara and UC Irvine faces Evansville. Arizona will look to get back on the right track after the close loss to Providence in the semifinals.
  • No. 6 Duke gets an afternoon tilt with Utah State at home before they face Indiana during the week. It’ll be interesting to see if Blue Devil freshman wing Brandon Ingram keeps his strong play going from earlier in the week.
  • UCLA returns home and could badly use a win against Cal State Northridge. The Bruins went a disappointing 1-2 in the Maui Invitational and need to get back on the right track before the face No. 1 Kentucky next week.


  • Brown vs. No. 25 SMU, 2:00 p.m. (ESPN3)


  • Jackson State at Marquette, 12:30 p.m.
  • Rider at Rhode Island, 1:00 p.m.
  • Savannah State at South Florida, 1:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • South Carolina State at Kansas State, 2:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Northern Colorado at Colorado, 2:00 p.m. (PAC12)
  • UC Santa Barbara at Arizona State, 4:00 p.m. (PAC12)

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics