Big Ten

Tony Bennett? Gregg Marshall? Rumors fly around Illini's head-coaching search

Tony Bennett? Gregg Marshall? Rumors fly around Illini's head-coaching search

Illinois' head-coaching has only been vacant for a few days, but rumors are flying as the college-hoops coaching carousel has started spinning at a feverish pace.

Wednesday was a particualrly active day, as the vacant Missouri job was filled by Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin, someone mentioned by some observers as a potential candidate at Illinois. Martin's departure for the Tigers means a new opening with the Golden Bears. And also out in the Pac-12, Washington fired its head coach, Lorenzo Romar.

Thursday the Big Ten got its second coaching vacancy of the offseason, as Indiana ended the nine-year tenure of Tom Crean.

Where does that leave the Illini?

Well, for one, they won't be hiring Martin. The Tribune's Shannon Ryan reported that Illinois was interested in making Martin an offer, but he opted to go helm Braggin' Rights rival Mizzou.

Ryan's report also included two of the bigger names involved in the Illinois rumor mill: Wichita State's Gregg Marshall and Virginia's Tony Bennett. Ryan reported that the Illini are pursuing those two, with North Carolina-Wilmington head coach Kevin Keatts as a backup option.

Marshall is in his 10th season at Wichita State, a mighty successful run in the Missouri Valley Conference that has seen him take the Shockers to six straight NCAA tournaments, including a phenomenal run to the 2013 Final Four. Prior to that, he spent nine seasons at Winthrop, taking the Eagles to the NCAA tournament in seven of those seasons.

Bennett knows the Big Ten well, a former assistant under Bo Ryan at Wisconsin from 1999 to 2003. He spent three seasons as the head coach at Washington State, a tenure that included a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2008, before heading to Virginia, where he's taken the Cavaliers to five NCAA tournaments in eight seasons, including each of the last four. Last season, Virginia earned a No. 1 seed and advanced to the Elite Eight.

Bennett, much like Ryan, is well known for his team's defensive prowess. Virginia leads the nation in scoring defense this season, allowing an average of 55.6 points per game, and has ranked in the top five in the country in scoring defense in each of the past six seasons.

Keatts has won three staright conference championships at UNC-Wilmington and taken the Seahawks to back-to-back NCAA tournaments. Prior to his current job, Keatts was an assistant under Rick Pitino at Louisville.

Interestingly enough, Bennett and Keatts coached against one another Thursday in a first-round NCAA tournament game.

All this comes five days after Illinois fired John Groce and five days after a report that San Antonio Spurs executive and former NBA head coach Monty Williams turned down a lucrative offer to be the next Illini coach.

As Illinois athletics director Josh Whitman has shown in the past with his hiring of head football coach Lovie Smith, he's not afraid to make a big splash to rapidly change the perception of a high-profile program. He's also not been afraid to commit big-time financial resources, something the school, as a member of the Big Ten, has a lot of.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

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USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.