Tag: Illinois Fighting Illini

of the Indiana Hoosiers during the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Assembly Hall on March 3, 2015 in Bloomington, Indiana.
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Coaches on the Hot Seat


As we get closer to the start of the 2015-16 college basketball season, let’s take a look at the head coaches who need to have a good season in order to feel safe. While the list of coaches on CBT’s “hot seat” have had poor seasons and lost their jobs before, keep in mind that the last two No. 1 selections for this list kept their jobs the following season, including Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, who is currently thriving in College Park. 

1. Tom Crean, Indiana: Indiana enters the 2015-16 season with top-25 talent and high expectations, but Crean finds himself atop the hot seat list for failing to meet expectations at Indiana. Crean’s now entering his eighth season as the Indiana head coach, and only once in the previous seven seasons — the 2012-13 season — have the Hoosiers been good enough to be considered a true title contender. That’s not enough, but not only is Crean struggling to find the success the Hoosier fan base craves on the floor, but the dismissal of three more players this offseason hasn’t made life any easier off the floor. Indiana’s president isn’t pleased with the off-the-court developments and many prominent Indiana alums have been vocal about the Hoosiers falling below expectations. A big season would go a long way towards quieting Crean’s doubters.

2. Josh Pastner, Memphis: Much like Crean at Indiana, Pastner has achieved success but faltered compared to a passionate fan base’s expectations. Memphis missed the postseason altogether for the first time in 15 years with last season’s 18-14 record and the team’s best returning player, Austin Nichols, transferred to Virginia, following Nick King and Pookie Powell out the door. Pastner is going to rely heavily on the freshman Lawson brothers to make a postseason appearance immediately, but in a city that became accustomed to the success of John Calipari’s Tigers, will they be satisfied if we’ve already seen Peak Pastner?

3. Brian Gregory, Georgia Tech: After a 12-19 season and 14th place finish, Gregory is back for his fifth season at Georgia Tech. He’s never finished above ninth in the ACC. Gregory has coached one team to the NCAA tournament in his last 11 seasons and that came at Dayton in 2010. The local recruiting momentum is also limited for Georgia Tech under Gregory. The Yellow Jackets went 0-for-7 recruiting prospects from Georgia in the Rivals150 in the Class of 2015. In the Class of 2016, that number is 1-for-11.

4. Kevin Willard, Seton Hall: Entering his sixth season at Seton Hall, Willard has finished above .500 twice and owns a 30-60 mark in the Big East. Having never made the NCAA tournament as a head coach, the pressure is on Willard to produce even though experienced guards Sterling Gibbs and Jaren Sina both transferred out of the program.

5. John Groce, Illinois: Illinois missed the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1992 and that isn’t sitting well with Illini fans. Groce has never finished above seventh in the Big Ten and he hasn’t been able to reel in a lot of big-named recruits that Illinois finds itself a finalist for. Transfers like Darius Paul and Aaron Cosby haven’t lasted and proved to be harmful as replacements for those missed recruits. Illinois fans expect results and Groce needs to make the NCAAs again.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

Illinois head coach John Groce (Getty Images)
Illinois head coach John Groce (Getty Images)

6. Barry Hinson, Southern Illinois: The once proud Southern Illinois program has had to endure Hinson’s three-year tenure. He’s thrown his own players under the bus during a postgame press conference and publicly remarked about his job security this spring. The Salukis own a 40-57 record and 19-35 mark in conference play under Hinson and he lost five transfers this offseason, three of them freshmen.

7. Donnie Jones, UCF: UCF was successful in Conference USA, but its been a rough back-to-back stretch for the program. Jones has never made the NCAA tournament and his 2010-11 wins were vacated for using ineligible players. Jones was also suspended three CUSA games and the program put on probation. Now he’s 25-36 overall and 9-27 in the American the last two seasons.

8. Travis Ford, Oklahoma State: It’s never a good sign when the team’s athletic director and biggest public booster, T. Boone Pickens, publicly have to back Travis Ford, which is precisely what happened in Stillwater this offseason. It’s a far worse sign that Ford owns no NCAA tournament wins since 2009 despite recruiting McDonald’s All-Americans like LeBryan Nash and Marcus Smart, who both played for multiple seasons.

9. Dave Rice, UNLV: Rice has proven to be a formidable force on the recruiting trail, but that success has yet to translate on the Thomas and Mack Center court, as the Rebs have missed the last two NCAA tournaments. Rice was feeling the heat a little bit this offseason when rumors of Ben Howland looking at UNLV began swirling, but Howland is now at Mississippi State and Rice landed hometown McDonald’s All-American Stephen Zimmerman. Rice still doesn’t own any NCAA tournament wins, and with yet another talented recruiting class, he needs a strong season.

10. Kim Anderson, Missouri: Anderson’s first season at Mizzou was a disaster as the team went 9-23 and 3-15 in the SEC. It’s not looking much better in the future as the Tigers lost some key pieces — namely Jonathan Williams III and Teki Gill-Cesear — to transfer.

Three-star point guard headed to Illinois

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Wednesday evening Illinois head coach John Groce and his staff landed their first verbal commitment in the Class of 2016, as 6-foot point guard Te’Jon Lucas announced that he’ll play his college basketball in the Big Ten. The Milwaukee native, who was also considering Old Dominion and USC, plays a position where the Fighting Illini were in need of depth for the future.

With grad student Khalid Lewis (from La Salle) and junior Jaylon Tate both being upperclassmen, Illinois needed a young option to groom with the future in mind. Illinois also has fifth-year senior Tracy Abrams, who will miss another season after rupturing his Achilles earlier this summer.

With the uncertainty that comes with Abrams having suffered serious injuries in each of the last two years (torn ACL sidelined him for the 2014-15 season), and the question of whether or not he’d spend a sixth season in college, adding a point guard in this class was important for Illinois. And in Lucas, the Fighting Illini have a player who improved throughout the summer.

“Te’Jon Lucas was a breakout player this summer in the national camp and grassroots setting as he demonstrated a strong ability to play off of high ball screens,” NBCSports.com recruiting insider Scott Phillips said. “A high-IQ floor leader with some craftiness to his game, Lucas showed he could play against great competition this summer.”

Lucas, who attends Washington HS and played his grassroots basketball for the Milwaukee Spartans program, took an official visit to Illinois last weekend (he took trips to USC and ODU in the two weekends prior).

Video credit: Midwest Ballers

Point guard Te’Jon Lucas set to announce decision

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One of the biggest stock risers during the month of July is set to make a decision, as point guard Te’Jon Lucas will commit on Wednesday. The native of Milwaukee will choose between his finalists of Illinois, Old Dominion and USC during a 5:30 p.m. CST press conference.

The three-star Lucas burst on the national scene with his strong play during the summer as he was one of the surprise players at the NBPA Top 100 Camp and he also performed well during July. Old Dominion has been in the picture the longest for the 5-foot-11 Lucas but Illinois and USC have both made late charges.

Lucas has taken an unofficial visit to Illinois and official visits to Old Dominion and USC during the recruiting process. A high IQ floor general, Lucas is adept at running pick and rolls and he’s the type of point guard who can get others involved.