Indiana v Illinois

Contract extension, new facilities project highlight big day for Illinois’ John Groce

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In his first season as head coach at Illinois, head coach John Groce led the Fighting Illini to 23 wins and very nearly past East Region 2-seed Miami in the NCAA tournament round of 32.

As a result of his successful debut, Groce was approved for a raise in salary and a three-year extension of his contract through the 2017-18 season. The $200,000 raise pushes Groce’s annual salary up to $1.6 million per year.

But this wasn’t the only big news for Illinois Basketball, which also officially announced the addition of Western Michigan transfer Darius Paul and Oregon State transfer Ahmad Starks.

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees also approved the “Illinois Renaissance” project, which is estimated to cost some $165 million and includes the renovation of Assembly Hall.

The three-year project is expected to be completed prior to the start of the 2016-17 season, and it includes the renaming of the building to the State Farm Center.

“All of Illini Nation should be very proud and happy that we have the State Farm Center renovation approved as we take the next steps in the process. We continue to work with individuals and groups for naming rights opportunities and premium seating, but I am comfortable with the progress we’ve made so far,” Illinois AD Mike Thomas said in the press release.

“There is more work to do, but this is such an important project for the University of Illinois campus, it is very exciting to have the approval and support of the Board of Trustees. State Farm Center officially becomes the name of the building and we’ll continue the transition to the new name.

“We have been working toward this moment for some time, but, this is really just the beginning of a project that will turn State Farm Center into one of the finest all-purpose facilities in the world.”

The Illinois men’s and women’s basketball teams will continue to play games at State Farm Center during the renovation project, and given the growing influence of facilities in recruiting this project could help Groce as he continues to build his program.

As renovations begin next season Illinois will undergo a transformation of sorts on the floor as well.

Returnees such as Tracy Abrams and Joseph Bertrand will need to mesh well with the newcomers if the Fighting Illini are to account for the production lost due to the graduation of Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

VIDEO: Kentucky’s ‘Dancing Guy’ has scary fall while carrying girl

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Kentucky’s ‘Dancing Guy’ has turned into a fan favorite at Rupp Arena.

Every home game, during one of the TV timeouts in the second half, ‘Mony Mony’ will come on, Dancing Guy will hop into the aisle and he’ll break it down like only a middle-aged white guy from Kentucky can.

As you can see, it didn’t quite go all that well for Dancing Guy on Tuesday night, as he tried to do a rail slide while holding a young, female fan and completely ate it.

Here’s another angle of the fall:

It looks much scarier that it actually was, as all reports indicate that everyone made it through the fall healthy.

No. 5 Xavier stumbles at Creighton, lose 70-54

Creighton's Cole Huff (13) and Toby Hegner, left, guard Xavier's Jalen Reynolds (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Mo Watson went for a career-high 32 points, seven boards and five assists as Creighton jumped out to an early 21-4 lead and never looked back, beating No. 5 Xavier, 70-54, in Omaha on Tuesday night.


It was a massive win for the Bluejays, who still have an outside shot at earning an at-large bid this season. (We wrote all about that here.)

As well as Creighton played, the bigger story here may actually be Xavier, who lost for just the third time this season; they had been the only top ten team with just two losses to their name.

The issue for the Musketeers tonight was two-fold, but they both are a symptom of what could be an issue down the road for this team: Xavier doesn’t really have a true point guard.

They certainly didn’t have anyone to stop Watson. By the second half, they had essentially asked Reynolds, who was playing the middle of their 1-3-1 zone to matchup with Watson. It was weird but was actually somewhat effective.

The Musketeers also started out ice cold from the floor, missing 11 of their first 13 shots, and those misses led to leak outs from Bluejays, who got layups and open threes in transition to build that 17 point lead. Once Xavier got behind, it turned into scramble mode for Xavier. They forced shots early in the clock and didn’t start pounding the ball into the paint until it was too late. What they needed was someone to be able to settle things, to ensure that offensive would get initiated and sets would get executed when they were able to get the lead down to single digits.

That 1-for-19 shooting performance from beyond the arc certainly didn’t help matters, and neither did the fact that they got just nine field goals all game from players not named James Farr or Jalen Reynolds. The most frustrating part for head coach Chris Mack? They had good shots. It wasn’t like Creighton took away everything that Xavier wanted to do.

The kids just had one of those nights where nothing went down.

Those happen.

And when you combine them with a total inability to contain the opposing team’s point guard, what you get is a 16 point loss on the road against a team that was desperate to get a good win.